The European General Court has dismissed a case brought by individuals and environmental groups from six countries to annul biomass provisions contained in the EU’s 2018 Renewable Energy Directive, ruling that the plaintiffs do not have a legal standing.
In March 2019, plaintiffs from Estonia, France, Ireland, Romania, Slovakia and the US initiated legal action with claims that the EU’s biomass policy would not only destroy forests, but also increase greenhouse gas emissions.
They said they represent areas on both sides of the Atlantic, which saw their old-growth forests cleared and burned to fuel the EU industry.
The court stated that the plaintiffs’ arguments had no merit. It said the contested directive “applies to all persons, both natural and legal. The applicants do not put forward any factor recognised by case-law which would be capable of distinguishing them individually as addressees.”
The plaintiffs themselves acknowledged that environmental protection “affects everyone in both current and future generations”, but failed to argue how the directive sets them apart as natural and legal persons and infringes upon their rights as such.
Furthermore, the plaintiffs do not meet the specific criteria when actions for annulment brought by associations may be admissible, the court document shows.
The plaintiffs on Tuesday said they will consider an appeal against the court decision.
“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 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”, said Mary Booth, the director of the Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI), a US-based organisation that supported the plaintiffs.
The US Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA), which submitted an application to intervene in the court case, has welcomed the ruling.
“Although this was a procedural ruling this was the right overall result, as the arguments put forward in the case had no value. The European institutions carried out an open consultation to gather scientific and environmental advice and considered these during the legislative process. The result was a revised Renewable Energy Directive that set out rigorous standards for the inclusion of sustainable biomass in the European energy mix,” USIPA executive director Seth Ginther said.
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