Austria moves to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg. The government in Vienna is complaining about the EU Commission’s plans to classify nuclear energy as “sustainable”. “Nuclear power and gas are neither green nor sustainable. That is why, as announced, we have filed a lawsuit against the EU Commission’s taxonomy regulation,” said Austria’s Climate Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) on Friday. In doing so, she confirmed a report by the Austrian newspaper “Kurier” and made a threat that had been announced for a long time.
The minister has repeatedly called the classification “greenwashing”. The taxonomy, which has been in force since 2020, has so far included regenerative energies such as wind and solar power and is intended to create a European seal of approval for sustainable financial products. The step would be equivalent to an official recommendation for private investment in nuclear and gas projects. This is controversial because burning gas produces climate-damaging carbon dioxide and there is no definitive solution to radioactive waste from nuclear power plants.
Too much scope, too little time
The deadline for filing a complaint is next Monday. Gewessler announced that the Austrian government would then publish “all the details” about the lawsuit filed on Friday. A spokeswoman had previously announced a press conference for Monday.
Austrian Climate Protection Minister Gewessler: “Greenwashing”
From the outset, Austria had opposed the classification of gas and nuclear energy as sustainable and threatened to sue. According to the “Kurier”, the government in Vienna argues that the Commission should not make decisions of such scope. Procedural deficiencies are also cited, since the EU states had too little time to evaluate the measures.
Part of the “Green Deal”
Environmental organizations have also threatened lawsuits. The classification of gas and nuclear power as sustainable should come into force at the turn of the year. With the taxonomy regulation, economic activities are to be classified according to ecological standards in order to boost investments.
Certain investments will then be considered sustainable in the future if they use the most modern technologies and – in the case of gas – replace even more climate-damaging coal-fired power plants. According to the Commission proposal, approvals granted for new mailers up to around 2045 could fall under the taxonomy regulation. With the help of this regulation, the European Union wants to implement its “Green Deal” and become climate-neutral by 2050. According to the EU Commission, 350 billion euros are required for this every year. The taxonomy is intended to help mobilize private funds for climate goals.
EU majority for new regulation
Of the 27 EU member states, only eight had expressed opposition to the regulation, including Germany, Austria and Luxembourg – far too few to block the project. The European Parliament also approved the assessment of gas and nuclear as environmentally friendly in July.
Austria banned nuclear energy in the country as early as 1978 and included this in the constitution in 1999. The republic of nine million currently gets more than three-quarters of its electricity from renewable sources, mostly hydropower. However, Austria also continues to import electricity generated in other ways, including nuclear power.
AR/cw (afp, efe, lusa)