Green schemes to fight climate change by producing more bio-fuels could actually worsen a little-known type of air pollution and cause almost 1,400 premature deaths a year in Europe by 2020, a study showed on Sunday.
The report said trees grown to produce wood fuel – seen as a cleaner alternative to oil and coal – released a chemical into the air that, when mixed with other pollutants, could also reduce farmers' crop yields.
“Growing biofuels is thought to be a good thing because it reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” said Nick Hewitt, who worked on the study with colleagues from England's Lancaster University.
“What we're saying is 'yes, that's great, but biofuels could also have a detrimental effect on air quality',” he added.
The report, in the journal Nature Climate Change, looked into the impact of a European Union scheme to slow climate change by producing more biofuels.