Greenpeace to sue European Union for ‘gas and nuclear greenwashing’

·2-min read

Greenpeace says it’s taking legal action against the European Union for its inclusion of gas and nuclear energy in its list of climate-friendly investments.

Eight Greenpeace organisations sent a formal request for internal review to the European Union’s executive arm, the European Commission on 8 September.

The organisation is arguing that the inclusion of gas and nuclear in the European Union’s list of green investments - or “taxonomy” - violates European climate law, and Europe’s obligations under the 2015 Paris Agreement, among other regulations.

The Commission now has until February to respond to Greenpeace’s arguments, according to the group. If the Commission does not agree to disinclude gas and nuclear from its list of sustainable investments Greenpeace says it will take the case to the European Court of Justice.

“This fake green label is incompatible with EU environment and climate laws,” said Greenpeace EU sustainable finance campaigner Ariadna Rodrigo. “Gas is a leading cause of climate and economic chaos, while there is still no solution to the problem of nuclear radioactive waste and the risk of nuclear accidents is far too significant to ignore.”

In July, the European Parliament voted to add gas and nuclear energy into its list of sustainable investments, despite widespread opposition from campaigners.

The so-called taxonomy spells out what can be classed as "environmentally friendly" for the purposes of investing, an increasingly valuable category when it comes to attracting capital.

Greenpeace is not the first entity to threaten the European Commission with legal action over the inclusion of gas and nuclear in the sustainable taxonomy. In February, Austria and Luxembourg said they would challenge the policy proposal in the courts.

Greenpeace argues that calling gas sustainable “denies fundamental climate science.” Gas is a fossil fuel that produces planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the emissions it produces are less than coal and countries have promoted it as key to transitioning off other fossil fuels and into renewables.

While nuclear power does not emit carbon it does produce nuclear waste and uses a lot of water.

The debate over the taxonomy highlights countries’ dependencies on different forms of energy. Germany, which holds considerable sway at the EU level, has traditionally relied heavily on gas, while France, another European heavyweight, produces most of its electricity from nuclear power.

It also comes after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Moscow’s decision to severely limit supplies of natural gas to the continent.

A spokesperson for the Commission confirmed it had received the request for internal review.