Austria challenges EU ‘green’ nuclear label in court

Austria on Friday filed a complaint with the top EU court over the bloc's decision to label nuclear power as green, the climate ministry said.

Garigliano nuclear plant, Italy
Austria has been fiercely against nuclear energy. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

The European Parliament in July approved a European Union proposal giving a sustainable finance label to investments in gas and nuclear power, sparking claims of “greenwashing” by environmental lobbyists.

Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler said Austria had filed the complaint ahead of Monday’s deadline.

“Nuclear energy and gas are neither green nor sustainable,” she said in a statement, adding she would give more details on Monday.

Austrian daily Kurier reported Friday that the complaint had been filed, adding it had little chance of success according to legal experts.

READ ALSO: Austria to add €0.25 deposit to price of cans and plastic bottles

The European Commission had defied protests from green campaigners and dissent in its own ranks to put a green label on gas and nuclear power.

It had argued that both have a role to play as cleaner power sources during the transition to a net-zero carbon future.

Gewessler had vowed Austria would file legal action against labelling nuclear energy as green, describing it as “outdated” and “too expensive” and highlighted safety concerns and uncertainty over how to deal with nuclear waste.

The Alpine nation of nine million people — which depends heavily on gas — has been fiercely anti-nuclear for decades.

An unprecedented vote by its population in 1978 prevented its only nuclear plant — meant to be the first of several — from starting operations.

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Vienna museum tilts paintings to illustrate climate change threat

Gustav Klimt's well-known Attersee lake painting, among other works of art, tilted by Vienna's Leopold Museum to draw attention to how unchecked climate change could affect landscapes.

Vienna museum tilts paintings to illustrate climate change threat

Gustav Klimt’s well-known Attersee lake painting tilted by two degrees, Egon Schiele’s painting of a tree in late autumn rotated by five degrees. As part of the initiative “A Few Degrees More”, Vienna’s Leopold Museum has tilted 15 paintings by the number of degrees unchecked climate change could affect the landscapes depicted.

The initiative, launched on Wednesday, comes after climate activists poured black liquid over a glass screen protecting a Klimt piece at the museum. “We want to contribute to raise awareness of the dramatic consequences of the climate crisis,” museum director Hans-Peter Wipplinger said.

Developed together with the research network Climate Change Center Austria, the action runs until late June.

Wipplinger dismissed the November “attack” — one of a string of similar protests by activists in London, Rome and other cities to highlight the climate emergency — as “absolutely the wrong way” to raise awareness.

READ ALSO: Is Austria doing enough to protect children from the climate crisis?

Following the protest, the museum put more works behind glass screens, increased watches and introduced stricter controls at the entrance, he said. “But in the end, we can’t exclude this” from happening again, Wipplinger said, regretting the increased costs incurred by the measures — and the higher insurance premiums.

Sofie Skoven, an 18-year-old student from Denmark visiting Vienna with her class, said the sight of the tilted paintings “of beautiful places” made her sad.

“It makes you want to do something about it — it reminds you of what’s going to be lost,” she told AFP.

Another visitor, Joachim Burdack, was less impressed. “I think it trivialises climate change,” the 71-year-old German retiree told AFP. 

READ ALSO: What are the biggest threats facing Austria this year?

It was too easy to get used to the tilted works, he added.

The Leopold Museum, with its 6,000 artworks, houses one of the world’s most important collections of Austrian art, focusing on the second half of the nineteenth century and subsequent Modernism.