Restoring and Protecting Forest Ecosystems Through Strategic Litigation

The Forest Litigation Collaborative (FLC) is a joint project of the Lifescape Project and the Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI).

Restoring and protecting forests is key to our climate future and indeed the web of life on earth. The FLC works internationally to pursue strategic litigation and quasi-legal approaches that promote the protection and restoration of forest ecosystems and their associated carbon sinks.

Much of our current work focuses on countering the increasing use of forest biomass for renewable energy, a trend which is destroying some of the most biodiverse and carbon-rich forests in the world while increasing net CO2 emissions.

Collaborating with other NGOs and local lawyers on a case by case basis, we use science and strategic legal action to challenge corporate and government policies that promote burning forest wood for fuel. For example, this can involve litigation arguing that new legislation or policy is contrary to climate- and biodiversity-related legal obligations, seeking to stop corporate greenwashing of bioenergy, or challenging logging permits.

Below you can read more about our current work.

UK OECD Complaint Against Drax Group plc

In October 2021 the FLC joined forces with RSPB, Biofuelwatch, Conservation North and Save Estonia’s Forests to file this complaint under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

Drax owns an enormous biomass power station in the UK and goes to considerable efforts to make the public, UK government and investors think that its energy is carbon neutral and isn’t causing forest destruction around the world. The complaint explains why these statements are untrue and misleading, given that burning woody biomass produces more carbon emissions per unit of final energy than burning coal. Rather than being the answer to decarbonising the energy sector, Drax is the UK’s single largest source of carbon emissions.  To add insult to injury, wood pellets burned by Drax are made from whole trees and are sourced from clear-cut logging in natural forests around the world. This is causing devastating habitat loss. Despite this reality, Drax receives billions of pounds in public subsidies, pocketing £2.1 million of tax-payers money every day.

This complaint aims to stop Drax’s greenwashing and make it comply with the OECD Guidelines which aim to promote responsible business conduct. We are asking Drax to withdraw its misleading statements and issue a full public explanation of the true carbon and forest impacts of its energy.

Download a copy of the complaint’s Executive Summary here and a copy of the full complaint here.

Estonian Forest Permits in Märjamaa

This case challenges the Environmental Board’s sign-off on a permit granted to  Finland’s Stora Enso for clearcutting the Lauluväljaku community forest in Märjamaa, a small village in rural Estonia. Tiina Georg, an Estonian law student representing the NGO Eesti Metsa Abiks (EMA), brought the case, along with several residents of Märjamaa. If they are successful, the case would establish important legal precedents that limit exploitation of forests in Estonia by foreign companies like Stora Enso and strengthen individuals’ legal right to a clean and healthy environment.

Click here to a read a blog post giving more detail on this case.

South Korean Subsidy Challenges

Supported by south Korean NGO Solutions for Our Climate, solar developers in South Korea filed two lawsuits against their national government in 2020, citing unconstitutional renewable energy subsidies to wood burning that worsen air pollution, accelerate climate change, and stunt the growth of the Korean solar energy sector. These cases represent the first national-level lawsuits in South Korea challenging the status of wood-burning as renewable energy.

These two cases have contributed to an important debate in South Korea about the problems caused by wood biomass energy, increasing pressure on policy makers to stop financially supporting the industry.

For more information about the Forest Litigation Collaborative, drop Elsie Blackshaw-Crosby (our Managing Lawyer) an email.

We would like to thank all of those who have contributed their time pro bono to these cases, including Edward Millett, Nicholas Pointon, Ben Mitchell, Mishcon de Reya, Tiina Georg and many others. Photo credit: Kai Nagata

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