Austria said on Monday (10 October) it was seeking help from its EU allies in its legal battle with the European Commission over labeling nuclear power and gas as “green” in EU sustainable investment rules, the so-called EU taxonomy.
This follows a formal legal challenge announced on Friday.
“We are in talks with other EU governments that could join us as supporting parties in the process,” Austrian Environment Minister Leonora Gevesler said at a press conference on Monday.
Vienna is seeking support from other member states beyond Luxembourg, which has already expressed its support for the lawsuit.
At last year’s COP26, Austria and Luxembourg formed an alliance with Germany, Portugal and Denmark to keep nuclear power out of the taxonomy, but Spain was also one of the most vocal opponents, seeing neither nuclear power nor gas as sustainable investments.
taxonomy, controversial presented on New Year’s Eve and adopted by the summer, allows certain investments in the gas and nuclear industries under the “transitional economic activity” category.
Although designed as a science-based investment tool to divert investment from companies that falsely claim to be environmentally sustainable, critics argue that the green label for the nuclear and gas industries lends credence to washout claims, creates confusion in financial markets and will lead to serious delays in the transition from fossil fuels.
“There should be no program to clean up investments in nuclear energy and fossil gas. It is not credible, not ambitious and not based on knowledge, endangers our future and is even more irresponsible,” said Gevesler.
The anti-nuclear movement in Austria dates back to the 1970s, when a narrow majority rejected nuclear power in the country.
But Gevesler also said that labeling gas as environmentally friendly undermines the entire EU environmental funding package. “To call climate-harmful natural gas green means misleading”.
A legal loophole?
Austria argued that the inclusion of gas and nuclear collisions in the taxonomy rules themselves and the basic principle of “do no harm” to nature – but Vienna also identified procedural problems with how the commission adopted this delegated act.
Delegated acts are adopted by the commission to amend or supplement EU legislation after consultation with experts from member states.
However, according to an EU official, the commission ignored member states’ concerns about the taxonomy.
Lawsuit from Vienna a lawsuit by a group of public organizations, including Greenpeace and ClientEarth, over the classification of gas and nuclear power as green investments.
The commission said it was aware of the lawsuit but would not comment on the merits of the case.
“The EU system is largely focused on renewable energy sources. Renewable energy sources will continue to be the focus of green investors and the creation of green financial products,” said a representative of the commission.
“We have included gas and nuclear … in a limited number of circumstances and under strict conditions … [because] gas and nuclear energy are recognized as important parts of the transition in a number of member states.’