On Monday, the Minister of Climate Protection Leonore Gewessler (Greens) gave the Austrian lawsuit a good chance because of the controversial EU classification of gas and nuclear energy as climate-friendly investments: “We will not put the Union and the Commission at the mercy of the fossil and nuclear lobby and endangering the future of all of us.”
Austria filed a lawsuit against the so-called taxonomy regulation at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Friday, shortly before Monday’s deadline. In the course of the taxonomy regulation, the European Commission classified gas and nuclear energy as “sustainable”. With this, the European Commission wants to determine which financial investments are considered climate-friendly in the future. This should help mobilize the billions needed for climate change and pave the way for the EU to become climate neutral by 2050. Environmental organizations have strongly criticized this project. Luxembourg wants to join Austria’s lawsuit.
„Do not green nuclear energy and gas“
Gewessler does not think the regulation is wrong in itself, it would offer investors a guideline. However, she wanted to “fight back with all her strength against the washing of nuclear energy and gas green”. Nuclear energy was not explicitly included in the original regulation and was only added by the additional delegated act. “We find that not only irresponsible and unreasonable, but also not legal,” says Gewessler.
Austria therefore considers the regulation submitted by the European Commission to be legally incorrect. The European Commission does not have the power to make such far-reaching political decisions, the argument goes.
Complaint consists of 16 counts
The Austria lawsuit contains 16 points. It states, among other things, that nuclear energy is not a technology of the future and that the unresolved issue of a definitive repository does not allow for sustainable classification. An important aspect of taxonomy regulation, according to Gewessler, is that the technologies in other areas cannot cause environmental damage. The disasters in Chernobyl and Fukushima have clearly shown that this cannot be ruled out. The tense situation in and around nuclear power plants in Ukraine is currently making this danger even more apparent.
“I firmly believe that the fight against the climate crisis now requires right and courageous decisions,” said Gewessler, who is also preparing for a long process.
“I think you have to take two years into account,” says lawyer Simone Lünenbürger. The procedure is very complex. The lawsuit also has no suspensive effect. The new regulation will enter into force across the EU on 1 January 2023.
Experts see little chance
Austria bases its lawsuit on a report by international experts, according to which nuclear energy is unsustainable. However, lawyers do not find the fact that Austria will stand up to this argumentation before the Court of Justice not particularly great.
Environmental protection organizations satisfied
The anti-nuclear spokesperson for the environmental organization GLOBAL 2000, Reinhard Uhrig, welcomed the legal action. “It is good that the Republic of Austria has filed suit against the failed attempt to amend the EU guidelines for sustainable investments,” a statement said. The environmental protection organization WWF also saw a good step by Austria to oppose the green classification of gas and nuclear energy. For Greenpeace, the lawsuit is the only right step to undo the “false labelling”.
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