The Austrian government has filed a lawsuit against the EU taxonomy with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for labelling nuclear and gas as sustainable economic activities, it announced yesterday.

Austria, alongside other environmental organisations, has criticised the decision of the European Commission to list nuclear and gas as sustainable activities.

The country’s minister for climate protection, Leonore Gewessler, believes the lawsuit may succeed. She added during a press conference yesterday: “We will not stand by and see that the [European] Union and the Commission allow themselves to be harnessed by the fossil and nuclear lobby and thus endanger our future.”

According to the Austrian government, nuclear energy does not meet the requirements of the taxonomy because green technologies must not cause significant damage to the environment based on the so-called “do no significant harm” principle, while accidents such as Chernobyl or Fukushima prove the opposite, it said.

“Nuclear power is an outdated technology that cannot contribute to climate protection,” Gewessler said, also pointing at the battle around the nuclear power in Zaporizhia in Ukraine.

Moreover, there is the unresolved question of the disposal of radioactive material, she added: “Nuclear power is too expensive and too slow to help us fight the climate crisis. From our point of view it has no future.”

For the Austrian government, natural gas damages the environment, while delaying the energy transition in Europe through renewable sources.

Including natural gas in the taxonomy causes lock-in effects in fossil infrastructures that the regulation intended to prevent, leading to higher costs, competitive disadvantages and further aggravation of the climate crisis, it added.

The Commission has classified gas and nuclear as sustainable activities under certain conditions in the Taxonomy Delegated Act. It believes in the role that private investments can play in gas and nuclear activities during the transition phase to a green economy.

In February, the Commission approved in principle a Complementary Climate Delegated Act including, under strict conditions, specific nuclear and gas energy activities in the list of economic activities covered by the EU taxonomy. The draft was formally adopted on 9 March.

The Austrian government believes that it is beyond the authority of the Commission to make “such far-reaching and politically sensitive decisions”, without fully fulfilling procedural requirements such as impact assessment, public consultation and consultation with member states, it said in a statement.

The European parliament had also rejected a motion to oppose the inclusion of nuclear and gas as environmentally sustainable economic activities.

Recently a group of environmental organisations legally challenged the EU taxonomy threatening to bring the European Commission to court if it does not reply to the request to repeal the Complementary Delegated Act in the next weeks.

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