Captivated since childhood by the beauty of nature and sensitive to the vulnerability of natural balances and the dangers posed to them by immoderate human activity, Vanessa Kurukgy quickly became interested in environmental law. She then studied energy law, at the time when this market was opening to competition and the so-called renewable energies. She recently joined an organization dedicated to the protection of biodiversity, after a long career as lawyer. During her interview with “La Lettre du DPO” Vanessa discusses in detail her experience and commitment to this sector and shares with us her vision on the future of environmental law as well as its impact on digital technology.
What is your background and what led you to become interested in environmental law?
“I started my law studies at the University of Nanterre (double degree in French and American law), followed by a year of LLM in London, where I received my first education in environmental law. I then integrated the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), in the “Public Affairs” Master’s program and the Energy program, with the conviction that the two subjects were intimately linked. A first internship in the Public Law department of CMS Francis Lefebvre, more specifically with lawyers involved in matters related to environmental and urban planning law, confirmed my orientation, which I pursued as a lawyer in the Fieldfisher law firm for 7 years.
Then, as I wanted to get more involved in the field of protection of biodiversity, in 2020, I joined the Federation of Conservatories of Natural Areas (FCEN) as a legal expert.”
What are your responsibilities and the missions that you currently carry out?
“The FCEN is a network of associations of biodiversity specialists, notably naturalists, established in each French region (except Brittany). The FCEN assists the Conservatories day-to-day, especially on legal aspects. My activity as a legal expert focuses on the tools related to the land area applicable in and to natural areas, in order to identify the best possible protection instruments and to support their implementation. This requires considering all the issues of the local context, such as the different players (farmers, the French National Forests Office – ONF, communities etc.) and the specificities of the land (economic activity on the site, particular regulatory classification, natural characteristics etc.). I am notably involved in voluntary biodiversity protection contracts (called “Obligation Réelle Environnementale” or “ORE”, i.e. the real environmental obligation), with the financial support of the French Office for Biodiversity (“OFB”). This system concerns a wide range of players (individuals, companies, public bodies) and leads me to work both on the aspects of “assets” protection in the field of biodiversity (desire to transfer a “green heritage” to the next generations) and on ecological compensation. Their implementation is linked to the destruction of the environment for an economic and/or development project and requires a land base”.
What is your vision on the future of environmental law and its impact on areas such as digital technology?
“Environmental law is not a new discipline, since the first significant laws were drafted at the beginning of the 20th century. It has become particularly important since the 1970s and has constantly expanded, at an ever-increasing pace, reflecting the urgent need to eliminate, control or mitigate the impact of human activities on the environment. In the future, regulations and case law will multiply in a very transversal way, and digital technology will be no exception. The protection of biodiversity will be one of the major challenges of the future, alongside that of climate change. In this respect, the digital industry will have to adapt because data centers, for example, currently consume considerable resources causing the destruction of natural areas. Digital sobriety, which is promoted by the recent French “REEN” law (adopted on 15/12/2021), is the consequence of energy sobriety which is becoming an obvious necessity. The offer of eco-friendly technologies must go hand in hand with a parallel moderation of consumption. The digital industry, like other human activities, cannot escape this reality and must stop encouraging the culture of an unlimited use at all costs.”