Reconciling the objectives of environmental protection and climate mitigation in EU law: the problem of renewable energy project authorisation

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Hardiman, Alison
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University College Cork
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This thesis investigates the contrasting approaches to project authorisation for renewable energy (RE) infrastructure projects in EU environmental and RE laws. It identifies the need for integration and proportionate application of environmental laws as it is sought to deliver the EU’s energy transition. Particular attention is afforded to the environmental law framework, where the objective of climate mitigation as a means of environmental protection as defined within the TFEU has not been effectively incorporated at Directive level. The thesis challenges the fact that EU environmental law has not been amended to reflect EU RE law and policy, and illustrates the problems that have therefore ensued at project level. It analyses the specific elements of the EIA and Habitats Directives, in particular, that do not facilitate or enable the infrastructural development that must necessarily underpin the energy transition. Detailed consideration is afforded to the relevance of the applicable EU principles of environmental integration, proportionality and legal certainty in this regard. It is illustrated within this research that environmental law is required to integrate the full breadth of environmental objectives, including climate mitigation, within the framework of sustainable development. Application of the principle of proportionality is considered as a means of informing appropriate balancing of different objectives within the scope of environmental protection, mindful of the need for legal certainty in order to enable investment by prospective developers. Within this context, the research addresses the tensions and necessary trade-offs arising between contrasting environmental protection objectives as it is sought to develop extensive RE infrastructure. In so doing, a more structured and therefore transparent approach to decision making by competent authorities is proposed. Areas of norm conflict, in respect of which a reframing of EU environmental law is required, are also identified. The aim of this research is to provide a clear focus on this issue within environmental law and to address the finding within EU RE law that the greatest barriers to the development of RE infrastructure are the regulatory processes designed to achieve environmental protection. Once so identified, appropriate and effective means of application of EU legal principles are identified that can contribute to policy integration within this sector. This is designed to mitigate the impending delivery gap regarding RE infrastructure successfully deployed, in accordance with the EU’s ambitious and urgent RE targets.
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Renewable energy , Environmental protection , EU environmental law , Environmental integration , Sustainable development , Proportionality
Hardiman, A. 2023. Reconciling the objectives of environmental protection and climate mitigation in EU law: the problem of renewable energy project authorisation. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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