Journalist and landowner Malte Heynen has taken German local authorities to court for “misguidedly approving” construction of the EUGAL gas pipeline – a vital component of the controversial Nord Stream 2 project.
The case, set to be heard today, aims to block the pipeline, which Mr Heynen says will lead to decades of over-reliance on yet another fossil fuel across Europe and drive runaway climate change.
Currently, Mr Heynen’s land is set to be temporarily taken from him while the pipeline is constructed, a procedure allowed under German law for ‘vital’ projects. But he believes this justification does not have a legal basis.
Any disruption to EUGAL approval would be an existential threat to the entire Nord Stream 2 project. Mr Heynen is being supported in this challenge by environmental lawyers ClientEarth.
He said: “My aim in taking this case is to play my part in averting climate breakdown. We are in the bizarre situation where Europe is acknowledging an existential climate crisis but giving the thumbs up to a transcontinental fossil fuel project.
“We cannot see prolonged use of gas in Europe as a solution to climate change – we need to fully embrace renewables, as fast as possible, and not be seduced by another fossil fuel.
The case is based on the way the project was approved – including illegally omitting to assess its climate impact, and relying on gas demand forecasts supplied by the gas industry itself.
He added: “The authorities here have misguidedly approved a project that is manifestly a huge climate risk, swallowing forecasts drafted by the gas industry itself to justify it. Meanwhile, no assessment whatsoever was done on the greenhouse gas emissions stemming from the project.
“If states are making major commitments on climate but local authorities are waving through climate hazards, we should seriously question if we have the right safeguards in place to combat the climate crisis.”
Inadequate impact assessments have been a pattern since the inception of Nord Stream 2, with ClientEarth’s Polish team having challenged it twice in the past years.
Energy lead for ClientEarth’s Warsaw office Ilona Jedrasik said: “Nord Stream 2 is an unnecessary project – the European Parliament has already made this clear, outlining it as a threat to energy security, not a saviour.
"Not only does this project have hugely negative consequences for nature, wildlife and climate across several countries, it jeopardises our progress towards climate neutrality and increases reliance on imports.”
The ruling is expected soon after the hearing, and could be as early as the same day.
Marianne Brooker is The Ecologist's content editor. This article is based on a press release from ClientEarth.
Image: Rohre für Nord Stream 2 in Mukran. Gerd Fahrenhorst, Wikipedia.