Groups launch legal challenge to EU’s support for biomass

A group of plaintiffs from five European Member States, including Romania, Ireland, Slovakia, France and Estonia, are mounting a legal challenge the EU’s 2018 Renewable Energy Directive. The  case, which will be filed in the European General Court in Luxembourg, says wood-burning power plants pump more carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere per unit of energy than coal plants.  The plaintiffs want the Court to annul the Directive’s  forest biomass provisions, so burning of forest wood is ineligible for meeting EU Member State renewable energy targets and subsidies.

“The lawsuit we are filing today alleges the EU’s policy fails to comply with nearly all of the principles for environmental policy that are laid out in the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU, including that policy should be based on science, address climate change, and embrace the principle that polluters pay,” said Raul Cazan of 2Celsius in Romania, one of the NGO plaintiffs.

The new Directive requires the EU to generate at least 32% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. But the group says that in 2016, nearly half the renewable energy produced in the EU came from burning woody biomass, and demand is expected to increase. The case argues that  uncounted CO2 emissions from this biomass are undermining efforts to address climate change, and subsidies for biomass are increasing demand and therefore the logging of forests in Europe and North America.

“The revamp of the Renewable Energy Directive was the EU’s chance to deal with some of the most egregious problems associated with biomass bioenergy, such as increasing forest harvests and burning whole trees and stumps. On this, they largely failed, so it is now up to citizens to take the EU to court and get this disastrous decision turned around” said Hannah Mowat, campaigns coordinator at Fern, a Brussels-based NGO working on forests and rights. 

Follow the case here

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