Austria to challenge EU nuclear green label in court

Austria will challenge a European Commission decision to give a sustainable finance label to investments in nuclear power, the environment minister said on Wednesday.

Austria to challenge EU nuclear green label in court
Austrian Minister for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology Leonore Gewessler. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP

“We will prepare all legal steps in the next weeks, and if or when the taxonomy takes effect, we will file legal action at the European Court of Justice,” Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler told reporters.

She added Luxemburg had already said it would join the legal complaint against the commission’s decision on the bloc’s so-called “taxonomy” — its classification of “green” energy sources.

“The decision is wrong because it endangers the future… We are giving our children a backpack full of problems… It’s irresponsible,” Gewessler said.

She described nuclear energy as “outdated” and “too expensive” and highlighted safety concerns and the uncertainty of how to deal with nuclear waste, calling the taxonomy “a greenwashing programme for nuclear energy and fossil fuels”.

The European Commission defied protests from green campaigners and dissent in its own ranks to give a sustainable finance label to investments in both gas and nuclear power on Wednesday.

The EU executive argues that both have a role to play as cleaner power sources during the transition to a net-zero carbon future.

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‘Stress blooming’: Why is Austria covered in pollen?

The phenomenon, which is leaving cars, balconies and plants in Austria coated in yellow pollen, is known as "stress blooming" and is linked to climate change.

'Stress blooming': Why is Austria covered in pollen?

The Nature Conservation Association is warning 2022 will be a record-breaking year for tree blossom with a forecast of “pollen rain” – the mass blooming of trees – in Austria over the coming days and weeks.

This phenomenon is known as a “mast year”  (or “fattening year”) when several tree species undergo a synchronised mass propagation at the same time.

This year, almost all trees are blossoming at the same time, which experts believe to be a result of climate change.

According to Johannes Gepp, President of the Styrian Nature Conservation Association, Central Europe has experienced the flowering of some tree species every year for the last five years – something that only used to happen in intervals of seven years.

READ ALSO: How to deal with fruit flies plaguing your Austrian flat

Gepp said: “The phenomenon of the mass blossoming of our trees extends equally across the whole of Central Europe, at least across the entire Eastern Alps and all the foothills.” 

Recent dry periods might also be contributing to the stress blooming as nature’s way to restock forests after trees have died.

Gepp added: “Fattening years give opportunities for natural forest development. In the past 5 years, several mast years have yielded vast quantities of seeds, which grow into billions of young trees in our forests.”

This year, the Nature Conservation Association has already counted a quarter of a million flowers on a single field maple tree and 150,000 male inflorescences (a cluster of flowers on a branch) on a spruce.