In a landmark lawsuit filed on March 4 against the European Union (EU), plaintiffs from the USA and five EU Member States - Romania, Ireland, Slovakia, France and Estonia – claim that the EU’s 2018 Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) is devastating forests and increasing greenhouse gas emissions, by promoting burning forest wood as renewable and carbon neutral.
The case was filed in the European General Court in Luxembourg. The plaintiffs are asking the Court to annul the forest biomass provisions of RED II, which. would render the burning of forest wood ineligible for meeting EU Member State renewable energy targets and subsidies.
Dr Mary S. Booth, director of the Partnership for Policy Integrity is the lead science advisor on the case. “The EU’s policy relies on the false and reckless assumption that burning forest wood is carbon neutral but burning forest wood actually increases emissions relative to fossil fuels,” she said.
Such climate concerns are a key part of the case, but plaintiffs also underline how RED II is impacting their property, rights, and livelihoods.
Bernard Auric filed a case on behalf of residents of Gardanne, a small, industrial, working-class town in the south of France. They have been fighting to end the disruption to their lives caused by the conversion of a former coal-burning power plant into a biomass-fired installation.
One resident, Luc Le Mouel, explains: “Since 2012 I have lived 300 metres from the power station in a neighbourhood particularly affected by noise, the fallout of smoke, wood chips, dust from passing trucks. It is impossible for me today to live and sleep normally. The lack of sleep exhausts me. I am in a state of growing depression.”
The case argues that subsidies are increasing demand for biomass, and therefore the logging of forests in Europe and North America. The plaintiffs represent areas that have been particularly hard hit, such as the US Southeast, Estonia, and the Carpathian Mountain forests in eastern Europe, where some of Europe’s last remaining primeval forests are being logged.
“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, Fern’s campaigns coordinator.