Environmental groups challenge backdoor dismantling of EU nature safeguards
CEE Bankwatch Network and ÖKOBÜRO have initiated legal action (1) to uphold EU environmental law and public consultation requirements when building renewable energy facilities. The groups argue that an emergency regulation adopted by the Council of the European Union in December 2022 breaches EU and international law.
9 March 2023
On 22 December, the Council of the European Union used a fast-track emergency procedure (2) to adopt a Regulation to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy (3).
Although the Regulation contains useful provisions to speed up small-scale solar and heat pump installations, other parts of it undermine existing environmental law and public consultation requirements.
Among others, the Regulation allows Member States to exempt all renewable energy developments in designated renewables areas from being subject to project-level environmental impact assessments and public consultations, as long as a more general strategic environmental assessment has been carried out during the wider planning stage. This exemption includes even very damaging projects such as new hydropower plants or biomass plants.
Pippa Gallop, CEE Bankwatch Network – ‘The Council has used a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Increasing authorities’ staff capacity, digitalisation and removing political barriers like Poland and Hungary’s de facto ban on wind power will help speed up sustainable renewable energy – but dismantling environmental safeguards and public consultations won’t. It will increase public opposition and legal challenges instead of speeding things up.’
Gregor Schamschula, ÖKOBÜRO – ‘The regulation by the Council offers no helpful solution to one of our most pressing problems: environmental dangers. We cannot sell out nature protection to help the climate, we need both. The regulation completely ignores the EU’s international obligations like the Aarhus Convention and the Alpine Convention. Our message to the Council from both a legal and an environmental perspective therefore is: try again, try better.’
Pippa Gallop, Southeast Europe Energy Advisor and Strategic Area Leader, Finance and Biodiversity, CEE Bankwatch Network
Mob: +385 99 755 9787
Gregor Schamschula, ÖKOBÜRO
Notes for editors:
- The groups have initiated legal action through a request for internal review – a mechanism that allows NGOs and the public to challenge certain EU decisions that breach environmental law. The Council now has sixteen weeks to respond to the request.
A briefing outlining the main points of our request can be found here
The request can be found here
- The Council used Article 122(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union as the basis for the Regulation, part of the Economic and Monetary Policy section of the Treaty, which states that ‘Without prejudice to any other procedures provided for in the Treaties, the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, may decide, in a spirit of solidarity between Member States, upon the measures appropriate to the economic situation, in particular if severe difficulties arise in the supply of certain products, notably in the area of energy.’
- Council Regulation (EU) 2022/2577 of 22 December 2022 laying down a framework to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy. The Regulation entered force on 30 December 2022 and is in force for 18 months.
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