European Union member states Austria and Luxembourg have announced their intention to take legal action against the European Commission’s proposal to classify some nuclear and gas energy projects as sustainable activities under the new EU Taxonomy.

The EU Taxonomy is part of the EU Action Plan on Sustainable Finance, established by the EU Technical Expert Group on Sustainable Finance (EU TEG). The taxonomy is a classification system enabling the categorization of economic activities that play key roles in contributing to the EU’s key environmental objectives, starting with climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation. The regulation went into effect at the beginning of this year, with the status of nuclear and gas remaining undetermined.

The warnings follow the publication Wednesday by the Commission of a Delegated Act, proposing criteria and disclosure rules for the inclusion of nuclear and gas in the Taxonomy. The Commission said that it had responded to feedback against the proposals its initial consultation on the Delegated Act by adding safety, environmental and disclosure rules to the proposals.

While gas and nuclear energy are often viewed as transition energy sources that will be required to facilitate the shift from fossil-based power to a greener energy system, the European Commission’s own sustainable finance advisory group the EU Platform on Sustainable Finance recently opposed classifying them as green activities under the Taxonomy, warning that they don’t fit the strict criteria of the Taxonomy’s framework for transitional activities, which include making a substantial contribution to mitigation objectives and ensuring no significant harm.

Under the EU’s procedural rules, following the publication of the Delegated Act, the proposals will now move on to the European Parliament and Council, and will formally be established unless at least 72% of member states representing at least 65% of the EU population, or a majority of the European Parliament members, object to it within 4 months. Most observers believe that the thresholds to stop the passage of the Act will not be met.

Renewing their objections to the new rules, members of the Austrian and Luxembourg governments have said they will take legal action against the implementation of the new proposals. In a press statement Wednesday, Leonore Gewessler, Austrian Federal Minister for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology called the Commission’s decision “a step in the opposite direction” to the EU’s 2050 climate neutrality goals, and described it as “a greenwashing program for nuclear power & fossil gas.”

Gewessler added:

“Austria will not shirk responsibility. Therefore, as soon as this greenwashing program comes into force, we will file a complaint against it with the European Court of Justice.”

Following the Austrian announcement, Luxembourg’s Minister for Environment added:

“Luxembourg strongly reaffirms its opposition to the inclusion of nuclear and fossil gas in the decision on EU Taxonomy for “sustainable“ finance of the EU Commission. We will consider further legal steps together with Austria.”

Luxembourg strongly reaffirms its opposition to the inclusion of #nuclear and fossil #gas in the decision on #EUTaxonomy for „sustainable“ finance of the @EU_Commission.⚠️ We will consider further legal steps together with Austria. 🇦🇹🇱🇺 @TimmermansEU @McGuinnessEU @VDombrovskis

— Carole Dieschbourg (@DieschbourgC) February 2, 2022

Germany has also announced its opposition to the rules, releasing a statement that “the Federal Government clearly rejects the inclusion of nuclear energy in the EU Taxonomy.” Germany’s Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke added:

“Nuclear power is not sustainable, involves immense risks, it is too expensive – and the planning and construction processes take far too long.”

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