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Environmental organizations file lawsuit in EU court against renewable energy directive

BC, Tallinn, 05.03.2019.Print version
Environmental organizations have filed a lawsuit in the European General Court in Luxembourg, charging 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, informed LETA/BNS.

The plaintiffs are from Estonia, France, Ireland, Romania, Slovakia and the United States, Estonian  pro-forest environmental NGO Eesti Metsa Abiks (EMA) said. The plaintiffs are bringing 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. 

EMA also participated in the preparation of the case as a local coordinator and adviser. In the court case, Estonia is represented by recognized poet, translator and essayist Hasso Krull, whose complaint focuses on the role of the Renewable Energy Directive in destroying the Estonian cultural heritage.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to annul the forest biomass provisions of the RED II in order to render forest wood ineligible for meeting EU member state renewable energy targets and subsidies.

The legal case cites scientific evidence that wood-burning power plants pump more carbon into the atmosphere per unit of energy than coal plants. "The EU's policy relies on the false and reckless assumption that burning forest wood is carbon neutral," Dr. Mary S. Booth, director of the US-based Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) and lead science adviser on the case, said.

According to the environmental activists, biomass energy is a large and growing part of EU's renewable energy mix and subsidies for biomass are increasing demand and driving increased logging of forests in Europe and North America.

The court case also focuses on the world's second largest wood chip manufacturer Graanul Invest, which owns pellet plants across the Baltics. According to the Estonian plaintiff, Graanul Invest initiated a process for removing the map layer of sacred places from national databases, thus expressing the clear wish to continue the unpunished cutting of sacred places that have not yet been inventoried.

Almost half of the timber harvested in Estonia is burnt in Estonia or abroad, and according to the proposal for the development of the Forestry Development Plan 2030, the wish is to maintain the current volume of bioenergy production.

The environmental organizations said that the steering group for the drawing up of the Forestry Development Plan is significantly out of balance as Graanul Invest CEO Raul Kirjanen has been assigned to the steering group as a representative of the Estonian Renewable Energy Association, while EMA was left out of the steering group despite the inclusion wish submitted by both the civic association and the Council of Environmental NGOs (EKO).

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