Toxic emissions and devalued CO2-neutrality: stem wood burning violates sustainable development

  • Rolf Czeskleba-Dupont
Keywords: Stockholm Convention POPs, Dioxin formation, Dioxin destruction, Waste incinerators, Wood stoves, CO2 balances, Greenhouse effect, Irreversible time, End-of-pipe regulation, Substitution, Dioxin health effects


The paper proposes the thesis that a counterproductive effect of dioxin formation in the cooling phase of wood burning appliances has been registered corresponding to the de-novosynthesis which through the years has been fully accepted as a mechanism of dioxin formation in municipal solid waste incinerators (MSWI). Therefore, stronger regulations are recommended for wood burning appliances comparable to those that led to EU norms for MSWIs. Both researchers, regulators and the public are, however, preoccupied by notions of oven design and operation parameters, assuming that dioxin behaves on line with other toxic pollutants from incomplete combustion. Evidence is given that this is not the case. Based upon both earlier and recent research of the author as well as new findings, specificities of the dioxin from combustion problem are reconstructed. The favourable treatment of wood stoves in the newly prioritised climate and energy policy nexus is analysed critically arguing for a real-historical devaluation of an assumption of CO2-neutrality in case of burning wood. Alternative practices as storing C in high quality wood products and/or leaving dead wood in the forest are mentioned. As a normative frame of reference for evaluating actual toxics reduction policies the Stockholm Convention on POPs is presented. Denmarks function as lead country for dioxin in the context of the OSPAR Convention is mentioned. Climate policy is seen in relation to goals of CO2-reduction. Societal-historical problems of lacking courage in dioxin policies are dealt with, contrasted with more autonomous research initiatives from around the world. Sustainability is related to these issues by operationalising different understandings of the 1987 report of the World Commission on Environment and Development and trying to contribute to sustainable development at world-system scale. Some mental barriers against that are, hopefully, being lifted