Press release: 18 May 2022

‘Catastrophic’ REPowerEU proposal prompts legal concerns over nature impacts – ClientEarth

The European Commission has announced today its ‘REPowerEU’ proposal, which aims to speed up the transition to renewable energy to reduce Europe’s dependency on Russian fossil fuel imports.

While the goal is laudable, environmental lawyers have flagged significant issues with the approach. The proposal aims to speed up approval procedures for wind and solar projects – but in order to do this, it would exempt almost all renewable projects in designated ‘go to’ areas from having to undergo an assessment of their impacts on important nature protection areas as required under the EU Habitats Directive.

Reacting to the proposal, ClientEarth lawyer Anna Heslop said: “The roll-out of renewable energy is pivotal to Europe’s efforts to become more energy independent and resilient, and central to reaching the EU’s climate goals. This is a goal we are fully behind and we agree that unnecessary obstacles must be removed – but Europe’s nature laws are not among them.

“Today’s communication attempts to trash important EU legal duties to protect nature under the Habitats Directive, which have been in place for decades and are backed by civil society and businesses alike. This goes directly against the EU Habitats Directive, is catastrophic for the nature that sustains us, and sets a worrying precedent.

“In the midst of a global biodiversity crisis it is incomprehensible that the Commission would choose to seriously undermine the laws that protect the EU’s most valuable natural places and wildlife.

“The Commission knows full well that this law is also part and parcel of tackling the climate crisis. We cannot save the planet and secure our future without fighting both battles.

“Ramping up renewables is necessary, but it should not come at the cost of people and nature – our issue is not with the goal but with the approach. We are extremely disturbed about the implications of this proposal and will be considering this issue further.”


Notes to editors:

‘Go to’ areas are areas that EU Member States will be required to identify and designate as the most suitable places for deploying renewable energy projects. The Commission’s proposal envisages that certain environmental assessments would then be effectively excluded in these areas.

About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.