07/12/2018 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/12/2018 12:40
Committee on Petitions
NOTICE TO MEMBERS
Subject:Petition No 1004/2017 by B.R.P. (Spanish), on behalf of the Catalan Agricultural Institute of Sant Isidre, on the Climate Change Act 16/2017
Summary of petition
The petitioner complains that the Climate Change Act 16/2017, which creates a network of high nature-value mature woodlands and prohibits forest use, does not offer any financial compensation to the land owners or contractors and is in violation of EU rules and jurisprudence. He calls for compensation to be given to the individuals affected by this restriction.
Declared admissible on 15 January 2018. Information requested from Commission under Rule 216(6).
Commission reply, received on 29 June 2018
The petitioner argues that, by limiting the use of forest resources in forest reserves without foreseeing the adequate compensation for the owners, regional law on climate change breaches the fundamental right to private property enshrined in Article 17 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. In addition, the petitioner doubts whether such regional law is in line with EU climate legislation as, contrary to the latter, it imposes limitations on forest management and use of forest resources.
The Commission's observations
First of all, the Commission acknowledges that the sustainable forest management, including, inter alia, the sustainable use of forest resources, is crucial for combating climate change. However, it recalls that the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU makes no reference to specific provisions for an EU Forest policy, therefore forestry in general, and forest
United in diversity
management in particular, are not directly covered by EU legislation.
The Commission would like to make it clear that, unlike the petitioner suggests1, the EU climate legislation in force, and in particular Decision 529/2013/EU2, as well as the forthcoming regulation on Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry foreseen to be adopted by the end of May3:
a) does not regulate the use of forest resources and does not impose/restrict forest management techniques;
b) does not establish any rule which could be understood as allowing the use of forest resources without limitations, under given conditions.
The EU climate legislation in force does not lay down any accounting or reporting obligations for private parties (see Article 1 of Decision 529/2013/EU). Moreover, it does not regulate land use. If it did, it would have been adopted via the procedure foreseen in Article 192(2) TFEU instead of Article 192(1). As far as the use of forestry resources is concerned, this is the matter of national competence and EU law does therefore not cover it.
The EU climate legislation obliges the Member States to contribute to climate change mitigation and sets the targets, such as ensuring that emissions and reductions in land use and forestry sectors are in balance. However, in line with the principle of subsidiarity, the EU legislation leaves the choice of measures up to the Member States. In practice, this means that it is a decision of the EU Member States how they intend to manage their forests.
Second, regarding more particularly the fundamental rights issues raised by the petitioner, indeed Article 17 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union protects the right of all to property, which includes the right to own, use and dispose of lawfully acquired positions.
However, under the Treaties on which the European Union is based, the European Commission has no general powers to intervene with Member States in the area of fundamental rights. It can do so only if an issue of European Union law is involved.
The Charter does not apply to every situation of an alleged violation of fundamental rights. According to its Article 51(1), the Charter applies to Member States only when they are implementing European Union law. Moreover, Article 6(1) of the Treaty of the European Union states that, "the provisions of the Charter shall not extend in any way the competences of the Union as defined in the Treaties."
From the information provided by the petitioner, in the absence of links between the alleged breach of fundamental rights and the implementation of Union law, it is thus for the Spanish authorities to ensure that their obligations regarding fundamental rights - as resulting from
1 See first paragraph on page 6 of the petition
2 Decision No 529/2013/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on accountingrules on greenhouse gas emissions and removals resulting from activities relating to land use, land-use changeand forestry and on information concerning actions relating to those activities,OJ L 165, 18.6.2013, p. 80.
their international human rights obligations and national legislation - are respected.
EU is internationally and domestically committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Nevertheless, Member States retain the right to determine the conditions for exploiting their natural resources, including forests.