In one of its increasingly clandestine late-night meetings, the German parliament has neutered the Nature Protection Act and partially abolished previous species protection regulations — in order to accelerate the construction of wind farms.
The power drunkenness of Germany’s grand coalition has no limits. Increasingly, unconstitutional and ragged laws are pushed through under cover of night. The latest outrage: Last Thursday (22 June), new ghostly rounds of shenanigans occurred in the German Bundestag. In one of its increasingly clandestine late-night meetings, parliament neutered the German Nature Protection Act and partially abolished previous species protection regulations. This was done quite obviously to enable the construction of wind turbines in regions where this has hitherto been taboo.
At the centre of the legal changes is the so-called killing-prohibition of animals. Bats, for instance, had been protected in accordance with the Federal Nature Conservation Act and were not allowed to be killed. If a construction project threatened to violate this prohibition of killing, it could not be approved. If building a new road was to be to prevent, the law has been very welcome; however, when it comes to the construction of wind turbines, the ban on killing has become an unwelcome obstacle.
Now, however, the windmill ideologues have succeeded: Parliament and government have pushed through what the German wind lobby has been demanding since 2008, to give the interests of a subvention-savvy industry preference over wildlife protection. The prohibition of wildlife killing is being eroded in favour of wind energy projects. The draft law for the amendment of the Federal Nature Conservation Act, which was first published in December 2016, was voted through by a few dozen MPs at around 22:15.
The Bavarian Association for Landscape Care and Species( VFLAB) and the initiative “Reasonable Power” write:
“After a storm of indignation by ideology-free nature conservation organisations, it had been quiet for several months. It was taken for certain that nothing would be done in this legislative period. Contrary to all expectation, however, the amendment was added to the agenda of the Bundestag at short notice. Obviously, a gap in public attention was being exploited to push through this far-reaching change in the law in favor of the wind energy lobby shortly before the current parliament comes to an end.”
In recent years, the construction of the often useless 27,000 wind farms has violated species protection regulations and has regularly exceeded the expansion limits stipulated by the legislator. Now that all hurdles have been removed, the champagne corks are popping up in the wind industry’s board rooms. The ideological elimination of species protection is reminiscent of the darkest times of the 1960s concrete mania, when the then transport minister Georg Leber promised: “No German is to live more than 20 kilometers away from a motorway driveway”. Fortunately, this obsession has been done; instead, everyone should now see a wind turbine spin in front of their bedroom window.
Here is a statement by the German Wild Animal Foundation issued last December when the draft of the new law was presented:
In the context of amending the law, central concerns of nature conservation are to be ignored when it comes to the construction of wind farms. “The amendment leads to a dramatic increase in the threat to birds and bats posed by wind energy installations. That is unacceptable, “says Professor Dr. Fritz Vahrenholt, sole director of the German Wildlife Foundation.
The intended revision of § 44 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act is intended to impose a loosening of the previous prohibition of killing and injuring of animals if such “impairment is unavoidable”. Unavoidable impairments can occur in the operation of wind turbines. This would mean a relaxation of how to handle the power-plant related risks to birds and bats. “The killing of birds is thus no longer a fundamental obstacle to the construction of wind power plants”, Professor Vahrenholt criticised.
As a result, the growing danger of a collision of wild animals such as birds and bats with wind turbines will be increased further. This amendment is justified by the claim that the development of wind energy is in the public interest. This allows wind farm operators to obtain exemptions from the prohibition of killing wildlife.
The rapid expansion of renewable energies, such as wind power, already leads to serious violations of the prohibition of killing (§ 44 BNatSchG). Just how dramatic the conflict between wind energy expansion and species protection is has recently been documented in a study by Dr. Klaus Richarz (Wind energy in ecological forest habitats) which was commissioned by the German Wildlife Foundation.
Already, German wind farms are killing 250,000 bats and more than 12,000 birds of prey per year. The list of endangered species listed in the study reads like the “Who is Who” of the bird kingdom. Public resistance is growing too: According to a survey by Emnid last October shows that 80 per cent of respondents are against wind farms in the forest – with 87% of rejection the opposition in Eastern Germany is particularly high.
While companies such as Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) are forced by law to resettle lizards for millions of euros, the same legislator has now opened the door to the massive killing of rare animals. This double standard is purely ideological. An animal that dies as a result of normal economic activity (for example, because an industrial plant contaminates a lake or a river) continues to enjoy the full protection of the law. An animal killed by wind turbines for the purpose of the ‘Green Energy Transition,’ however, dies for the good cause. This has nothing to do with appropriate legislation, but much with ideology. The way in which this law has been smuggled through in a cloak-and-dagger operation is testament to the fact that the guilty parties are well aware of what they have done.