European Court of Justice Rules in Favor of Biomass

The European Court of Justice dismissed a case against wood biomass of individuals and NGOs from six countries (Case T-141/19). According to the court the case lacked standing to challenge the EU’s inclusion of forest biomass in the bloc’s Renewable Energy Directive.  

Plaintiffs from Estonia, France, Ireland, Romania, Slovakia and the US brought up claims that the EU’s biomass policy is destroying forests and increases greenhouse gas emissions. They argued the treatment of biomass as carbon neutral runs counter to scientific findings. According to the plaintiffs, burning wood for energy typically emits 1.5 times more CO2 than coal and 3 times more than natural gas. Whereas the general understanding is that wood biomass emitts only 25% of CO2 in comparison to fossil fuels (CO2 emissions from processing woody biomass).

Biomass makes up 60% of Europe’s renewable energies and is a vital contribution to the green goals.

The court described that arguments had no merit, since 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 acknowledged that the environmental protection “affects everyone in both current and future generations”. However, they did not argue how the directive sets them apart as natural and legal persons and infringes upon their rights as such.

The decision was welcomed by biomass association from both sides of the Atlantic. “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 commented the decision.