Forest protection in the EU’s renewable energy directive and nature conservation legislation in light of the climate and biodiversity crisis – Identifying legal shortcomings and solutions

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Series Details Volume 153
Publication Date August 2023
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Forests ecosystems have an indispensable value for global climate and biodiversity protection. Alongside manifold other functions, forests ecosystems are important suppliers of raw materials in a post-fossil world. However, without effective legal restrictions, the increasing demand for woody biomass for energy production counteracts effective forest conservation in Europe and third countries. Against this background, this article assesses the governance effects of the EU Renewable Energy Directive and the EU nature conservation legislation, particularly the directives forming the Natura 2000 network, and the proposed Nature Restoration Law.

To this end, a qualitative governance analysis is applied. In a first step the sustainability criteria of the Renewable Energy Directive are assessed regarding intra- and extraterritorial effects and their ability to avoid typical governance problems. Thereafter, to investigate achievable steering effects, EU nature conservation legislation is analysed. The legal analysis shows that typical governance problems reoccur, rendering the effectivity of the assessed command-and-control regulations too low to protect forest ecosystems in line with international climate and biodiversity targets. Only the proposed Nature Restoration Law might unfold a larger legal steering effect in the future, if a number of shortcomings are addressed. However, as typical governance problems can never be fully avoided, it remains necessary to reduce pressures on forest ecosystems by additional market-based instruments These instruments should be applied on European policy level to induce sufficiency in the private transport sector and in relation to consumption patterns for energy and food.

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