S.4.1. The Renewable Energy Directive

D.4.1. The Renewable Energy Directive

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Lawsuit filed before European Court of Justice against inclusion of forest biomass in Renewable Energy Directive II

Monday, March 4, 2019

The plaintiffs claim that the EU failed to take into account scientific evidence suggesting that the importation of forest biomass contributes to environmental degradation outside Europe.

On 04 March, a consortium of individuals and NGOs from Estonia, France, Ireland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, and the US filed a lawsuit before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg against the EU’s inclusion of forest biomass in the Renewable Energy Directive (RES Directive II). Last year, the EU recast and updated the RES Directive, committing to source at least 32% of its energy from RES by 2030.

The plaintiffs claim that the RES Directive II runs counter to Article 191(1) of the EU Treaty, which stipulates that the EU’s environmental policy shall contribute to “preserving, protecting and improving the quality of the environment (…) and in particular combating climate change.”

They also claim that the EU failed to take into account scientific evidence showing that forest biomass harvesting and combustion for energy purposes exacerbates climate change by causing deforestation outside of Europe. Indeed, the plaintiffs stated that the RES Directive II in its current form would allow global industrial wood harvests to more than triple.

The EU included forest biomass in the RES Directive II despite warnings from a group of more than 800 scientists that it could exacerbate overall environmental damage.

The EC claims that the RES Directive II contains provisions to ensure biomass consumed in Europe only comes from sustainably managed forests and requires that biomass emit at least 80% fewer GHGs than fossil fuels.

Scientific evidence suggests that burning wood for energy typically emits 1,5 times more CO2 than coal and 3 times more than natural gas. Biomass currently makes up almost 60% of EU renewables, more than PV and wind combined.

US plaintiffs claim that the RES Directive II worsens climate change by exacerbating deforestation in the US to meet the growing demand for wood pellet fuel in the EU.