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ClientEarth seeks court challenge over bioenergy inclusion in EU taxonomy

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Environmental law organisation ClientEarth has filed an internal review request to the European Commission for “unlawfully labelling bioenergy, bio-based plastics and chemicals used to make plastics as ‘sustainable’ in the EU taxonomy”.

An internal review request is the first step non-governmental organisations must take before being able to bring a court challenge. The Commission must officially reply to the request within 16 weeks. If ClientEarth finds that the reply does not “fix the legal violation”, the organisation can challenge the Commission before the Court of Justice of the European Union.

ClientEarth said Brussels is facing resistance ‘on multiple fronts’ to its sustainable finance taxonomy, a list that defines which economic activities can be labelled as green investments.

The first Climate Delegated Act was adopted in June last year and has been applicable since January this year. It classifies bioenergy, bio-based plastics and chemicals used to make plastics as activities that “contribute substantially to climate change mitigation or adoption” and do no significant harm to the environment.

ClientEarth and other environmental organisations have argued against this decision, warning that some scientists believe burning wood for energy has a significant environmental impact, producing more CO2 emissions than burning fossil fuels, and fuelling logging, which is linked to deforestation.

ClientEarth’s request claims that the Commission has infringed on the Taxonomy Regulation by relying on “flawed standards” for biomass already provided under the Renewable Energy Directive instead of assessing whether the available scientific evidence on biomass production is conclusive.

“To claim that forest biomass significantly contributes to combatting the climate crisis is absurd,” said ClientEarth forests lawyer, Filippo Mattioli. “The Commission is currently encouraging investment into biomass under a false label of sustainability, disregarding the clear scientific warnings over the harm it will cause to the climate and biodiversity.

In April last year, the US Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA) said the classification of bioenergy in the EU taxonomy underscores its ‘indispensable role’ in the EU’s low carbon energy transition.

“Requirements for sustainable bioenergy included in the taxonomy are also consistent with the strict, harmonised EU-wide sustainability criteria introduced in RED II just two years ago,” Seth Ginther, USIPA’s executive director commented in April.

“This decision ensures the EU only sources biomass that makes a positive contribution to the climate and healthy forest ecosystems.”