Experts: effective legal instruments for climate neutrality needed
The state, represented by the National Assembly, the Ministry of Environment and Water and other institutions, is obliged to make more efforts to create a clear and effective regulatory framework and to introduce specific guidelines for taking climate factor into account in strategic environmental assessments (SEA) and environmental impact assessments (EIA). This was the main recommendation of experts, environmentalists and lawyers, participants in a round table on "Legal instruments for better climate policies and practices".
BlueLink Foundation held a virtual expert meeting on 15.12.2021, together with the European network of environmental lawyers Justice and Environment. Among the participants were representatives of the Climate Coalition, Za Zemiata, WWF and other environmental organizations at home and abroad with extensive experience in nature and climate protection litigation, as well as lawyers and SEA/EIA experts.
The integration of climate considerations in all strategic documents of the institutions is extremely important for engaging public attention with the topic of carbon neutrality, experts agreed. However, the issue of climate change is insufficiently addressed in SEAs and EIAs, which can be a crucial tool to ensure the implementation of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Environmental assessments do not reflect adequately the climate considerations
Climate questions in the SEA are still very vague; pools of climate experts are still in the process of formation, there are separate chapters on climate mostly only in large SEAs and the cosideraition of climate adaptation is still “in its infancy”, said Plamen Peev, PhD, expert in law and environmental policy at BlueLink (in the picture). Peev presented expert analysis of Justice and Environment, conducted in 2020-2021 in 8 European countries. "It is worrying that in some European countries the climate is not taken into account at all when making environmental assessments," said the expert.
Clear climate goals, guidelines and methodologies are needed in preparing environmental assessments that are in line with national climate mitigation and adaptation objectives, clear sub-objectives at sectoral and regional level, as well as climate adaptation strategies at national level, are other recommendations of the expert report. It is important to make an overall assessment of the impact of a project on climate and of the climate change on projects, and a clear regulatory framework is needed to oblige experts who prepare and evaluate SEA and EIA to take into account climate change, commented participants in the round table. It is also crucial that EIA experts can rely on common guiding standards, especially on complex topics such as climate change.
Climate cases could change policies
We still do not have a climate case in court, explained the attorney Regina Stoilova from the environmental association Za Zemiata: "The first steps in this direction in Bulgaria are yet to come." However, it is important to incorporate climate arguments into environmental court cases, she stressed. Such examples are a case against a decision not to carry out an environmental assessment of a general development plan that allows coal mining in the Pernik region, as well as a case against a coal concession in the Slivnitsa region.
The lack of adequate policies to reduce greenhouse gases and to adapt to climate change, as well as the very late date for phasing out of coal (2038-2040) may be possible arguments for filing a climate lawsuit in Bulgaria, said attorney Stoilova.
Although some citizens are particularly affected by climate change, there is currently no mechanism in Austria to oblige the country to tackle the climate crisis effectively. There is also no mechanism for citizens to complain about effective protection from climate effects, said Prisca Lueger of the Austrian organization ÖKOBÜRO, a member of the Justice and Environment Network, which presented several cases from Austrian case law. "It is important that individual citizens have the opportunity to make such claims in court and receive effective remedies in such cases," Lueger said.
"The processes related to the environment, public participation and access to justice are strongly related to the mission and goals of BlueLink and for another year we are committed to these issues as part of our cooperation with Justice and the Environment," said Pavel Antonov, Managing Editor on BlueLink.
Justice and the Environment is a network of 14 environmental legal organizations from around European countries, including BlueLink. The network seeks stronger environmental legislation and its implementation at national and European level for the protection of the environment, people and nature.
The event is part of the Justice and Environment work plan, supported by LIFE NGO grants from the European Union. The sole responsibility for this document and the event lies with its authors. The EU is not responsible for their content or the use of their information.
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