Restoring and protecting forest ecosystems through strategic litigation

In 2020, PFPI teamed up with the UK-based NGO Lifescape Project to create the Forest Litigation Collaborative (FLC). This partnership has enabled PFPI to significantly expand its capacity to litigate internationally.

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.

Prior to forming FLC, PFPI provided expert testimony and technical support for a wide range of cases, most notably a 2019 lawsuit challenging the EU’s treatment of biomass as renewable energy in the Renewable Energy Directive.

Current activities include:

UK OECD Complaint Against Drax Group plc

In October 2021 the FLC joined forces with Biofuelwatch, Conservation North and Save Estonia’s Forests to file this complaint against Drax, the largest wood-burning power station in the world, under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Drax uses greenwashing to persuade the public, UK government and investors that its energy is clean and carbon neutral. This complaint aims to make Drax  comply with the OECD Guidelines on responsible business conduct. Download a copy of the full complaint here.

EU Sustainable Finance Taxonomy

The FLC supported a group of NGOs from across the EU to file an annulment action against the European Commission seeking to block forest bioenergy and forestry projects from inclusion under the Sustainable Finance Taxonomy. The NGOs argue that the Taxonomy’s standards will encourage projects that contribute to climate warming and forest degradation. The case was filed just days after a vote in the EU Parliament also signaled new reservations about burning trees and other forest biomass for “renewable” energy.  Read more details about the case here.

Logging Permits in Märjamaa, Estonia

This case challenged the Estonian 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. The claimants hoped 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. Unfortunately, in November, 2022, the Supreme Court of Estonia dismissed the case. Despite this dismissal, the case set a number of important precedents that the claimants and local lawyers consider to be very important for the future of environmental protection in the jurisdiction.

Challenge to Estonian Draft Forestry Development Plan 2030

The Forest Litigation Collaborative has provided legal and scientific support to a group of Estonian NGOs in their challenge to the country’s Forestry Development Plan. The draft Plan, which sets out key principles for the management of Estonia’s forests between now and 2030, permits cutting at a rate that continues to degrade forest ecosystems in Estonia and will further increase emissions from the land sector (Estonia’s forest carbon sink has already disappeared).

In their letter to the Estonian Minister of the Environment, the NGOs argue that the draft Plan contravenes Estonia’s Constitution, which requires natural resources to be managed in a sustainable manner for the benefit of all people. If the Minister finalises the draft Plan in its current state, we will support the NGOs in bringing the case to the Estonian courts. You can read a copy of the letter here and a copy of the NGOs’ press release here.

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. The cases 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.

Recent Posts

Dogwood Alliance - Cypress Clearcut

Class action lawsuit alleges wood pellet maker Enviva is “engaged in textbook greenwashing”

We’re shocked – shocked! – to hear of Enviva’s “reckless disregard for the truth

Environmental coalition sues the European Commission over inclusion of biomass and forestry activities in EU Sustainable Finance Taxonomy

EU Commission has refused to reconsider taxonomy, which directs ‘sustainable investment’ towards activities causing immense environmental harm.

Challenging Greenwashing, NGOs Take Aim at Sweeping EU Finance Policy

“Green” investment criteria for bioenergy and forestry will increase emissions and degrade forests

Estonian law student takes on state-owned Finnish forestry company in battle to save her childhood singing fields

Case could make it easier for communities and NGOs to protect forests across Estonia, where vital woodland has been decimated by industrial logging

Korean solar industry makes unprecedented legal challenge to “green” credentials of biomass energy

Canadian citizen joins suit against Korean government alleging irreparable harm to forests and climate from use of British Columbia wood pellets

EU Biomass Case Denied Access to The Courts

Paying people to burn wood for energy and simply counting the emissions as zero, as the EU now does, is hollowing out forests and actually increasing GHG emissions. Stopping this practice is essential climate mitigation – which is what we desperately need.

Partnership for Policy Integrity