Press Release - Friends of the Irish Environment 12th May 2020
EU Biomass Case Denied Access to The Courts
Applicants considering appeal to end burning forest wood as renewable and carbon neutral
In March 2019 applicants from six countries including the USA brought a claim stating that the EU’s 2018 Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) will devastate forests and increase greenhouse gas emissions by promoting burning forest wood as renewable and carbon neutral.
On 11 May 2020 the EU Court published an order that the applicants who have brought this case, including individuals and groups from Estonia, France, Ireland, Romania and Slovakia, do not have legal standing and that it will not therefore make a decision on whether or not the biomass provisions of RED II should be annulled.
Dr Mary Booth, the director of the Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI), who spearheaded the case and was an expert witness, said:
“We disagree with the Court’s finding on standing. The Court should strike down the biomass provisions of the RED II due to their incompatibility with core principles of EU environmental law. The European Commission’s own science staff [Ref 1] have stated that ‘sustainability’ criteria such as those included in the RED II are ‘not sufficient to ensure climate change mitigation,’ an important admission that the EU put in place Potemkin sustainability criteria that do not protect forests and the climate. It is critical that the court hear this case, which is of fundamental importance to EU climate policy. We are working with the applicants and legal advisers to determine whether the applicants will bring an appeal against this decision which denies them access to the courts.”
A recent report [Ref 2] found that EU member states are paying out over €6.5 billion in subsidies per year to biomass burning facilities, a figure that does not include additional support to increase residential wood burning.
Dr. Booth said, “The EU has committed to net-zero emissions by 2050 and is proposing to dramatically strengthen GHG reduction targets. Paying people to burn wood for energy and simply counting the emissions as zero, as the EU now does, is hollowing out forests and actually increasing GHG emissions. Stopping this practice is essential climate mitigation – which is what we desperately need.”
Tony Lowes, a Director of Friends of the Irish Environment who represented Ireland in the international case, said that the case 'highlighted the need for the promised Guidelines from the Commission on what measures can be appealed directly to Luxembourg and which need to go through the national courts.’
International: Mary Booth, PFPI: firstname.lastname@example.org | +1 917-885-2573
Ireland: Tony Lowes, 353 (0)87 2176316
Plaintiffs from Estonia, France, Ireland, Romania, Slovakia, and the US brought the case based on the harms from logging and biomass burning they have already suffered, and anticipation of future impacts as financial support for bioenergy continues to soar. The plaintiffs represent areas that have been particularly hard hit, such as Estonia, the Carpathian Mountain forests in eastern Europe, where some of Europe’s last remaining primeval forests are being intensively logged, and as far afield as the US South East where natural forests are being clear felled and burned to fuel the EU industry.
In addition to PFPI, the Center for Climate Integrity (US) and Fern (EU) provided support and assistance to the case and to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from Leigh Day, Matrix Chambers, and 11KBW, all with offices based in London.
For more information on the case, see www.eubiomasscase.org
For the ruling, see http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=226323&pageIndex=0&doclang=en&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=626769
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