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    Translation: Environmental compatibility of the energy transition at sea in danger

    May 5, 2022 -


      MIL OSI translation. Region: Germany/Germany

      Source: NABU – Naturschutzbund Deutschland Draft law massively restricts nature conservation at sea

      The capacities of German wind farms in the North and Baltic Seas are to be increased significantly. This is what the new draft of the Offshore Wind Energy Act provides for. But if the amendment comes in April, not only will our seas lose, we will too.

      Construction of the Baltic 1 offshore wind farm – Photo: NABU/Andreas Fußer

      On April 6, 2022, the federal cabinet is expected to decide on the draft of the Federal Ministry of Economics to amend the offshore wind energy law (WindSeeG). With the change, the government wants to legally secure the offshore wind expansion to 70 gigawatts by 2045 agreed in the coalition agreement. From NABU's point of view, this expansion goal is not compatible with the goals of species and habitat protection and raises numerous questions regarding European nature conservation law. There is no alternative to phasing out fossil energy imports, as the Ukraine war shows in depressing drama. But the design unilaterally privileges offshore wind and thus plays off climate protection against the equally urgent nature protection of the sea. In order to accelerate the plan, the draft undermines environmental assessments, weakens participation rights for associations and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and opens marine protection areas for wind farms. Species threatened by increasing pressure of use are all the more dependent on undisturbed, use-free retreats. Species extinction and the climate crisis are two of the greatest threats to human survival on Earth. Both are inseparable and reinforce each other. Marine protection is climate protection. What does 70 GW of wind mean for the oceans and their inhabitants? The North and Baltic Seas are already doing badly today. Due to intensive human use, their load limit has been exceeded, the goals of the European Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive (FFH Directive) and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive have been missed by far. The European Union opened infringement proceedings against Germany last year, also because the marine Natura 2000 protected area network is insufficiently effective and secured. A balance must urgently be found between use and protection, for our seas and the climate. As CO2 stores and heat buffers, our oceans are our most important allies against the climate crisis, as the 2019 Ocean Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) impressively shows. Such a balance can be achieved if every increase in offshore wind energy is accompanied by effective programs to help species and goes hand in hand with a massive reduction in other cumulative burdens, primarily fishing, shipping and raw material extraction.

      Guillemots – Photo: Frank Derer

      Today, wind farms with a capacity of almost 8 GW are installed in German seas. Increasing this capacity ninefold over the next 20 years or so means industrializing the seas across the board. It seems questionable whether the available space is sufficient for 70 GW in view of the competing uses and nature conservation concerns. This was already shown by NABU's analyzes of the "old" WindSeeG from 2020 with its 40 GW target, for which maritime spatial planning determined the areas last year. The results are dramatic. Even with 40 GW wind, about 40 percent of the guillemots in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the North Sea lose their habitat. 20 percent of the kittiwakes and 10 percent of the northern gannets threaten to fly into the wind farms and collide with the turbines there. And the harbor porpoise, whose population in the North Sea has probably declined by 50 percent in the last decade, would also be endangered by habitat loss and the noisy construction work for thousands of new wind turbines.

      The "footprint" of the wind farms is even larger. 40 gigawatts of offshore wind take up an approximate area of almost 6,300 square kilometers in the German North Sea. This corresponds to 22 percent of the EEZ (200 nautical mile zone). But seabirds in particular are very sensitive to the more than 200 meter high wind turbines at sea, which will be even larger in the future. The latest research results from the FTZ show massive avoidance reactions of up to 20 kilometers in fulmars. Further studies by the FTZ show that, for example, red-throated and black-throated divers, but also guillemots, largely avoid wind turbines. Mathematically, they will lose their living space within a radius of 5.5 kilometers around the wind turbines. Overall, even with an expansion target of 40 gigawatts, half of the North Sea EEZ will be unusable for birds – this is incompatible with the EU Birds Directive.

      Spatial requirement/area of all wind farms with an expansion of 40-50 gigawatts, including the representation of the calculated habitat loss with a radius of 5.5 km (red). However, some species show significantly larger avoidance radii – map: NABU/FTZ

      Priority areas and priority areas for 40-50 gigawatts of capacity from offshore wind turbines (grey and hatched areas) according to Maritime Spatial Planning 2021. 30-40% more areas are required for 70GW. Where to put it? – Map: NABU/FTZ

      NABU demands NABU stands for a nature-friendly energy transition. Offshore wind energy is an important part of it. But the current draft of the WindSeeG falls short, thinks monosectorally and drives a wedge between the mutually dependent efforts to protect the climate and nature. NABU demands: The (inter)national obligations of marine biodiversity protection are of equal interest to the necessary efforts to protect the climate. The "overriding public interest" in wind energy formulated unilaterally in the WindSeeG draft contradicts this; the preservation of biological diversity as well as the efficiency and functionality of the ecosystem must also be anchored as an "overriding public interest" by means of a simultaneous amendment to the Federal Nature Conservation Act. If there is a unilateral regulation in the WindSeeG, the addition "outstanding" must be omitted. No wind farms in protected areas, as provided for by the WindSeeG and the Offshore 2020 area development plan not be weakened. They serve to ensure accuracy and legal certainty in the procedures. Any expansion of offshore wind energy must be accompanied by effective species support programs and go hand in hand with a massive reduction in other cumulative burdens, primarily fishing, shipping and raw material extraction.

      What's next? NABU will actively and attentively accompany the further political process of the new WindSeeG. After the Federal Cabinet decided on the bill on April 6, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat must also approve the draft law. There is still room for improvements here so that the WindSeeG amendment becomes an opportunity for the oceans and the climate.

      Opinion on the download

      more on the subject

      MIL OSI

      EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and/or sentence structure not be perfect.

      MIL Translation OSI


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