Green NGOs Are Taking EU Commission to Court

Groups claim EU’s new list of sustainable investments ignore scientific evidence and contradict their own criteria

Eight NGOs have rallied against the EU Commission’s decision to affirm nuclear energy and natural gas as sustainable investments in their new taxonomy (sustainable investment list).  

The purpose of the list is to direct investor funding into sustainable initiatives. However Nina Treu, director of Greenpeace Germany, states that “by including gas and nuclear into the taxonomy, it has become the contrary of what it was meant to be” and “instead of hindering greenwashing, it has now become a tool for greenwashing.”   

There will be two lawsuits, with Legal charity ClientEarth, the WWF European Policy Office, Friends of the Earth Germany and Transport & Environment, filing in relation to the inclusion of natural gas only.  

Both lawsuits respond to the EU executive refusing requests from the NGOs to reconsider the inclusion of nuclear and gas on the list, arguing that it directly contradicts scientific evidence and advice, despite this being outlined as part of the assessment criteria for their list. The EU Commission rejects this claim.  

The taxonomy details that for an activity to be included on the list and qualify as sustainable, it must meet science-based criteria. “That is not the case. Quite on the contrary”, argues Anaïs Berthier, head of ClientEarth in Brussels. She disputes that the list adheres to this, providing the example that “Science shows fossil gas-based activities contribute significantly to climate change.”  

Berthier also makes the case that categorising natural gas as sustainable does not comply with EU’s Climate Law, which rules that any new legislation from the EU Commission, “is consistent with the EU targets.”  

Should the NGOs be successful in the lawsuits, the official requests to review the inclusion of nuclear and natural gas on the taxonomy will be returned to the EU Commission.  

Berthier expects a hearing to take place in 2024, with a court ruling not likely until 2025. In this period, the EU Commission’s controversial sustainable investment list, will remain active and valid, with the Commission declining to “comment on the substance of the case, before the EU Court judgements are delivered.” 

This is not the only source from which the EU Commission are receiving condemnation over the legislative act. The Austrian government also filed a lawsuit against the Commission in October for labelling nuclear and natural gas as green, seeking a full annulment, and the EU executive is facing additional lawsuits from NGOs pertaining to the labelling of bioenergy, bioplastics and the use of biomass for energy as sustainable investments.  

There is increasing and accountability on greenwashing, especially in cases where the greenwashing act leads to financial gain. Businesses can learn how to authentically reduce their carbon footprint and reach their sustainability goals in our dedicated blog, How can your net zero strategy avoid greenwashing? 

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