Press release: 16 September 2022

EU Commission taken to court over unlawful decisions on bio-energy and bio-plastics

ClientEarth is taking the European Commission to the Court of Justice of the EU to challenge the decision to label bio-plastics and the use of forest biomass for bio-energy as ‘green investments’ in the EU taxonomy.

The legal action argues that declaring these activities “contribute substantially to climate change mitigation or adaptation” and do no significant harm to the environment under the Taxonomy is unlawful.  

ClientEarth argues that burning wood for the generation of energy – which is included in the definition of bio-energy in the Regulation adopted by the Commission – should not be labelled as green because it has severe environmental and climate impacts. 

ClientEarth lawyer Jody Quirke said: "You cannot burn wood for energy without cutting down trees, encouraging forest destruction with huge costs for biodiversity, depleting our remaining carbon sinks and increasing harmful carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

“The science shows that in most cases, burning wood can do more damage to the climate than the fossil fuels they were intended to replace.

“To encourage further investment in this practice by labelling it as environmentally sustainable is dangerously flawed and is not in line with the Taxonomy criteria. While it is essential for us to phase out fossil fuels, properly considering the energy sources that we replace them with is equally critical.” 

Lawyers are also challenging the labelling of bio-based plastics – plastics made out of biomass – and of bio-based chemicals, such as ethylene and propylene, used to make plastics. These bio-based plastics – often used for single use purposes – are mostly made of fossil fuels and release carbon into the atmosphere once they are disposed of. 

ClientEarth plastic lawyer Tatiana Luján said: “The fossil fuel industry has massively ramped up its investments in plastic production over the last years. That’s because in the midst of the energy transition, fossil fuel companies are searching for an easy alternative to keep themselves afloat – plastics is their plan B. 

“This Taxonomy Act, as it currently stands, will facilitate investments in the chemicals used to make plastics – therefore helping the fossil fuel industry crank out more and more plastic. These chemicals should not be considered as ‘sustainable’ investments.”


Notes to editors:
  • Last fall – after a 13 year ClientEarth legal battle – the EU changed its rules on access to justice to open EU courts to environmental challenges by NGOs and members of the public. 

  • Members of the public are now allowed to request EU institutions to review their decisions breaching environmental laws and – should they refuse – challenge them in court. 

    Read more about how we won this right and how we’ve been using it.   

  • In February 2022, we took the first step to challenge the EU taxonomy in Court by filing a request for the Commission to internally review its own decision to label bioenergy, bio-based plastics and chemicals used to make plastics as “sustainable” in the EU taxonomy. The Commission replied in July rejecting our request. In our application to the Court of Justice of the EU, we are asking the Court to annul the Commission’s action in rejecting our request.  

About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.