A group of organisations campaigning to protect the environment is legally challenging the EU taxonomy labelling gas as a sustainable economic activity, threatening to bring the European Commission to court.

Environmental law charity ClientEarth, the European Policy Office of the WWF, NGO Transport & Environment (T&E), and the German Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation (BUND) have started legal action against the Commission’s decision to include fossil gas in the taxonomy, they announced today.

According to the organisations, “labelling gas as ‘sustainable’ risks channelling investments into this harmful energy source, away from genuinely sustainable sources of energy like homegrown renewables – and skilfully reducing demand in the first place”.

Moreover, they said, the Complementary Delegated Act mentioning gas and nuclear as sustainable economic activities contrasts with the taxonomy itself, the European Climate Law, and the EU obligations under the Paris Agreement.

The organisations are therefore requesting the Commission to repeal the Complementary Delegated Act listing certain nuclear and gas activities as sustainable.

The Commission now has up to 22 weeks to reply to the request of the four institutions. If the Commission refuses to reply, the groups can bring the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

According to the Commission, gas and nuclear can be considered sustainable economic activities under stringent conditions if contributing to the transition to climate neutrality.

The Commission has adopted what it considers a “pragmatic and realistic approach”, also in view of the war in Ukraine and the consequent decision to cut import of Russian energy, to transition to clean energy, using nuclear if it fulfils safety requirements, and gas if it contributes to the transition from coal to renewables, it said.

A spokesperson for ClientEarth, WWF European Policy Office, T&E and BUND said that the EU “needs to stop greenwashing gas as ‘sustainable’ in the EU taxonomy”.

He added: “The taxonomy is supposed to be the gold standard for investments but, as it stands, this Taxonomy Act sends all the wrong signals to investors. It needs to be repealed.”

Luca Bonaccorsi, director of sustainable finance at T&E, added that time has come to convince investors not to follow the taxonomy that enables greenwashing.

The latest digital edition of IPE’s magazine is now available