Members of the Energy Community Need to Actively Work on the Conservation of Biodiversity | WWF

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Members of the Energy Community Need to Actively Work on the Conservation of Biodiversity

The Energy Community Treaty must comply with relevant EU directives in order to reduce the impact of energy projects on biodiversity - a new analysis shows how

When the countries of Southeast Europe and the Black Sea region signed the Energy Community Treaty in 2006, they undertook to respect the internal rules of the EU energy market and apply them in the legislation of their countries. This allows these countries to participate in the common European energy market, while respecting certain environmental protection measures, such as environmental impact assessment, protection of migratory bird species, and limiting air pollution caused by power plants.
However, over time, it has become clear that these measures are not sufficient to protect the diverse and high-value ecosystems covered by the territory of the signatory countries and their biodiversity. Moreover, since the signing of the Treaty until today, no example is known from these countries where the environmental impact assessment concluded that there is an unacceptably large impact of an energy plant on the environment.
In addition, many projects, such as the construction of small hydropower plants, do not have to undertake an environmental impact assessment, although the damage they cause to nature and local communities is disproportionately large. Small hydropower plants are an example of how renewable energy sources can have a significant impact on nature and biodiversity if they are not planned properly, exclude the public from the decision-making process, and circumvent the established procedures.
At the level of the European Union, there are several key directives whose purpose is the active protection of species, habitats, and water bodies - the Birds Directive, the Habitats Directive, and the Water Framework Directive. In other words, protected areas (including Natura 2000 sites), rivers, lakes, and wetlands should be preserved without causing further damage, except in situations where there is no other solution, which are clearly defined in these directives.
With this in mind, Bankwatch, in collaboration with WWF and ClientEarth, has prepared an analysis of the possibility of incorporating the provisions of these directives into the Energy Community Treaty. The conclusion of the analysis states that all energy projects that potentially have an impact on the existing network of protected areas or on water bodies must pass the assessments provided for in these directives in order to determine whether these projects can be implemented at all.
In the coming period, we will face many consequences of the climate crisis and careless attitude towards nature, which is why we need to act quickly. This also applies to energy policies and increasing the share of electricity from renewable energy sources in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We must not allow hasty and ill-considered political decisions to jeopardize the conservation of biodiversity, which is the foundation of all our civilizational achievements.
Veliki Rzav River, Serbia

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