Sustainably reconciling offshore renewable energy developments with Natura 2000 sites: an adaptive management framework

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Le Lievre, Celia
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University College Cork
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This thesis investigates how the ecosystem-based principles of resilience and adaptive management can be best implemented under the appropriate assessment of the Habitats Directive to reconcile the increasing demand for offshore renewable energy (ORE) and biodiversity conservation. Particular heed is given to the question of how the implementation of the Habitats Directive can be coupled with the development of nascent ORE technologies and the potential impacts these innovations may have on marine Natura 2000 species and their habitats. More specifically, the research challenges the strict interpretation of the precautionary principle which has been crystallised by the EU judiciary under the regime of Article 6(3) of the Habitats Directive. The jurisprudential interpretation of the Habitats Directive needs to evolve in order to better reflect the ecological and infrastructural challenges associated with deploying innovative renewable energy technologies in dynamic and complex offshore environments. In this vein, the thesis suggests a novel approach to interpretation of the Habitats Directive to help accommodate these legal challenges. In so doing, it reinforces the interface between law and ecological science and considers the utility of embracing the principles of adaptive management as a better methodology to enhance the outcomes of the appropriate assessment and reconcile the interests for offshore renewables and protection of Natura 2000 sites. The aim of this research is solution-based: it seeks to improve the implementation of the assessment requirements of the Habitats Directive before they truly become an ‘obstacle course’ for offshore renewable energy developers.
Habitats Directive , Natura 2000 , Offshore renewable energy , Ecological integrity , Sustainable development , Precautionary principle , Scientific uncertainty , Appropriate assessment
Le Lievre, C. 2019. Sustainably reconciling offshore renewable energy developments with Natura 2000 sites: an adaptive management framework. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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