MEP Manuela Ripa (ÖDP) on the vote in the European Parliament on an increase in the use of renewable energy

Ripa: “Climate protection and nature conservation must not play off against each other!”

(Strasbourg/15.12.2022) The European Parliament has voted on amendments to the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) as part of the RePowerEU package to enable the accelerated expansion of renewable energy (RE). The urgency contains many good and important elements to protect the climate. However, the Act also contains crucial weaknesses.

For instance, a majority of MEPs voted in favor automatically assuming that all RE projects are in the “overriding public interest”. This means that approval procedures for these projects will be much simpler, and that nature conservation and species protection will lose out when it comes to trade-off decisions.

Manuela Ripa, MEP of the Ecological Democratic Party (ÖDP), theoretically welcomes the booster for renewables “Decarbonisation of our economic system is necessary if we want to continue to earnestly try to reach the goals of the Paris climate summit and limit man-made global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius. To achieve this, it is essential to accelerate the expansion of renewable energies, especially solar and wind power. This is why it was the right decision, for example, to shorten approval procedures for the installation of solar panels on roofs to one month. We needed this regulation a while ago!”

The ÖDP politician warns, however, that nature conservation should not be put behind on the list of priorities in the expansion of RE. “Efforts to accelerate the extension of renewable energies must not undermine the protection of nature. After all, we are not only in a climate crisis but also in a biodiversity crisis! In the European Parliament’s Industry Committee, I had already spoken out in front of my colleagues in favor of stronger participation of citizens in renewable energy projects and against the undermining of EU nature conservation law. Now it has been accepted that certain RE projects will be exempted from key legislation such as environmental impact assessments (EIAs). This applies to biomass plants, such as industrial wood burning, and hydropower plants, whose construction is very problematic for the climate and biodiversity. This would allow building in ‘expediting areas for RE’ without specific EIA.”

According to the MEP, the example of Tesla’s car factory in Grünheide, Brandenburg, shows what fast-tracked approval procedures can do. “The fact that the competent authority granted preliminary approvals, based on which Tesla was able to start construction ahead of schedule, despite the deficiencies in the submitted procedural documents, is scandalous. The disregard for environmental standards and the European Water Framework Directive is now having a devastating effect on the water supply of the surrounding areas.”

The ÖDP politician notes that by the UN World Conference on Nature (COP15) that is currently taking place in Montreal, measures against the alarming decline in biodiversity are to be decided. “An estimated 60 percent of the world’s ecosystems have deteriorated in the last 50 years. The overfishing of the world’s oceans, the exploitation of forests, or the dramatic decline of pollinators threaten biodiversity and thus life on this planet. The loss of biodiversity is like a ticking time bomb. While I welcome the fact that we were able to push through in the vote to safeguard the habitat of bird species, the individual protection of the specific bird species must be taken into account, and not only the protection of the population. Therefore, we were able to preserve nature conservation regulations in the EU at this point. Nevertheless, with the vote on the regulation, a weakening of environmental regulations was signed off. I see this as very problematic because there must be no conflict of objectives between climate protection and environmental protection. The necessary expansion of renewable energies, climate protection, and nature conservation are intertwined crises that can only be solved together. That is why I abstained from the vote,” Manuela Ripa concludes.

In the upcoming trialogue negotiations with the Council and the Commission, it will be important to prevent a further weakening of legislation on nature and environmental protection.