Press release: 9 February 2023
EU Taxonomy: Environmental groups condemn Commission’s commitment to ‘sustainable’ label for fossil gas
The European Commission yesterday formally responded to four environmental groups’ request to drop the labelling of fossil gas-fired electricity and heat as ‘sustainable’ in the EU Taxonomy.
ClientEarth, WWF European Policy Office, Transport & Environment (T&E), and BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany) started legal action in September through a request for internal review. This is the first administrative step for NGOs and members of the public to challenge EU decisions breaching environmental law. Asking for an internal review obliges the Commission to reply – a reply which can then be challenged in the EU Court of Justice.
The groups argued that by giving fossil gas-fired electricity and heat a ‘sustainable’ label, the Taxonomy’s Complementary Delegated Act (CDA) clashes with other EU laws, in particular the Taxonomy Regulation itself and the European Climate Law. It is also at odds with the Commission’s broader climate commitments.
The Commission’s freshly published reply to groups claims that it acted lawfully and that there is thus no need to revise the contested delegated act – thereby maintaining the ‘sustainable’ label of fossil gas-fired electricity and heat.
A spokesperson for ClientEarth, the WWF European Policy Office, T&E and BUND said: “We’re disappointed by the Commission’s response. The ball was in their court and they lost a key opportunity to reclaim credibility.
“The labelling of fossil gas as ‘sustainable’ is a farce that’s going to cost our climate dearly. Contrary to what the Commission claims, the decision was taken unlawfully and disregarded climate science.
“We cannot let the Taxonomy Regulation become a greenwashing mechanism. We are analysing the Commission’s reply and considering our next steps. We won’t shy away from going to court if necessary.”
Notes to editors:
What is the legal procedure used in this case?
In 2021, a landmark reform of EU access to justice laws was approved. This has lifted the main barriers preventing NGOs and people from challenging environmental wrongdoings in court.
Environmental NGOs now have the right to ask EU institutions and bodies – in this case the European Commission – to review one of their own decisions for suspected contravention of EU law related to the environment. The Commission must officially reply to such a request within 16 weeks, a deadline that can be extended up to 22 weeks. If the claimants find that the Commission’s reply does not fix the legal violation, the claimants can sue the Commission in the Court of Justice of the European Union.
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.
About WWF European Policy Office
WWF is an independent conservation organisation, with over 30 million supporters and a global network active through local leadership in nearly 100 countries. Our mission is to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. The European Policy Office contributes to the achievement of WWF’s global mission by leading the WWF network to shape EU policies impacting on the European and global environment.
About Transport & Environment
Transport & Environment (T&E) is a European umbrella for non-governmental organisations working in the field of transport and the environment, promoting sustainable transport in Europe. T&E’s vision is a zero-emission mobility system that is affordable and has minimal impacts on our health, climate and environment.
BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany) is a grassroot organisation with more than 650.000 members and supporters, dedicated to the protection of the environment and social justice. The foundation are more than 2000 local volunteer groups, who carry the regional and federal structures of the organisation. BUND is dedicated to a democratic decision making process within its structure and mainly financed through membership fees and donations.