NGOs Challenge EU’s Move To Label Fossil Fuel Transports As ‘Green’

by | Feb 20, 2024 | Green Energy

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The European Union’s recent proposal to label certain fossil fuel-powered planes and ships as ‘green’ has ignited a fervent debate across various sectors, particularly among environmental NGOs. This blog post delves into the legal intricacies of NGOs’ Challenge EU’s Move to Label Fossil Fuel transport ‘Green,’ examining the potential challenges it may face from NGOs and the broader implications for EU environmental law and policy.

NGOs Challenge EU's Move to Label Fossil Fuel transport 'green'

The graph above is a radar chart that visualizes the key areas of legal analysis in the NGO challenge to the EU’s move to label fossil fuel planes and ships as ‘green.’ Each axis represents a different aspect of the legal challenge:

  • Compliance with EU Law (75%): This axis reflects the degree to which NGOs argue that the EU’s proposal is in alignment or conflict with existing EU environmental laws and commitments. A high value suggests that NGOs believe significant non-compliance with EU law exists.
  • Scientific Basis (60%): This measures the extent to which NGOs question the scientific justification of the proposal. A moderate score indicates concerns about the adequacy and robustness of the scientific evidence supporting the green labelling of fossil fuel-dependent transportation.
  • Transparency (50%): This axis evaluates the level of transparency in the decision-making process for the proposal. A mid-range score suggests perceived gaps in how openly the criteria and rationale were communicated.
  • Public Participation (65%): This reflects the perceived public and stakeholder engagement level in formulating the proposal. The value here indicates that NGOs see room for improvement in involving relevant parties in decision-making.
  • Legal Recourse (80%): This axis shows the likelihood and intensity of legal action NGOs might take against the proposal. A high score indicates a strong inclination towards using legal mechanisms to challenge the proposal.

The chart illustrates a broad perspective on the strengths and potential vulnerabilities of the NGO’s Challenge to the EU’s Move to Label Fossil Fuel Transport as ‘Green’. While there is a strong inclination towards legal recourse and significant concerns about compliance with EU law, there are also moderate concerns about the scientific basis, transparency, and public participation in the proposal’s development process. This visualization aids in understanding the multifaceted legal approach NGOs will likely adopt in challenging the EU’s green labelling proposal.

Background of NGOs’ NGOs Challenge EU’s Move to Label Fossil Fuel Transport ‘Green’

The background of the NGOs Challenge EU’s Move to Label Fossil Fuel transport as ‘Green’ is rooted in the broader context of the European Union’s efforts to combat climate change and promote sustainability. This initiative is part of the EU’s Sustainable Finance Taxonomy, a classification system that directs investment towards environmentally sustainable activities. The Taxonomy is a key element of the European Green Deal, an ambitious package of measures introduced by the EU to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050.

1. The EU’s Sustainable Finance Taxonomy

The EU’s Sustainable Finance Taxonomy was developed to provide a common language and a clear definition of what constitutes an environmentally sustainable economic activity within the EU. Its goal is to encourage investment in sustainable projects and activities by increasing transparency and helping investors make more informed decisions about the environmental impact of their investments. The Taxonomy sets out criteria for determining whether an economic activity is environmentally sustainable based on contributing to one or more of the EU’s environmental objectives, such as climate change mitigation and adaptation, water and marine resources, circular economy, pollution prevention and control, and biodiversity and ecosystems.

2. Inclusion of Fossil Fuel Transportation in the Taxonomy

The controversy arose when the European Commission proposed including certain activities related to fossil fuel-powered aviation and maritime transport within the Taxonomy’s framework as transitional activities deemed to contribute to climate change mitigation. This proposal was met with strong opposition from various stakeholders, particularly environmental NGOs, who argued that labelling fossil fuel-dependent activities as ‘green’ would undermine the integrity of the Taxonomy and the EU’s environmental and climate goals. Critics contend that this move could potentially lead to ‘greenwashing,’ where activities that are not genuinely sustainable are presented as environmentally friendly, thus misleading investors and the public.

3. NGOs’ Response and Legal Challenges

Leveraging their expertise in environmental law, policy advocacy, and activism, environmental NGOs have mounted a significant challenge to the EU’s proposal. They argue that the inclusion of fossil fuel-dependent transportation in the Taxonomy contradicts the EU’s commitments under international agreements like the Paris Agreement and its own policy objectives under the European Green Deal. These organizations are concerned that such a move would mislead investors and divert funds away from truly sustainable and renewable energy sources, thereby hindering the transition to a low-carbon economy.

NGOs are utilizing various strategies to challenge the proposal, including public campaigns to raise awareness, lobbying EU institutions and member states, and exploring legal avenues to contest the decision. The outcome of this challenge has significant implications for the future of the EU’s environmental policy, the credibility of its sustainable finance framework, and the broader global effort to combat climate change.

4. NGOs’ Opposition

Environmental NGOs vehemently oppose this proposal, arguing that labelling fossil fuel-dependent transportation as ‘green’ undermines the EU’s climate commitments and the integrity of the Sustainable Finance Taxonomy. These organizations contend that such a move could dilute the focus on genuinely sustainable investments and hinder the transition to renewable energy sources.

Also Read: Greenwashing Impacting Business Ethics

Legal Analysis of NGOs Challenge EU’s Move to Label Fossil Fuel Transport ‘Green’

The challenge posed by NGOs is likely to be multifaceted, involving legal arguments and broader policy considerations.

1. Compliance with EU Law and Policy

A key legal question is whether the EU’s proposal aligns with its laws and policies on environmental protection and climate change. Critics may argue that the proposal contradicts the EU’s commitments under the Paris Agreement and its own Green Deal, which aims to significantly reduce carbon emissions and promote sustainability.

2. Transparency and Scientific Basis

NGOs may also challenge the scientific basis and transparency of the criteria used to classify planes and ships as ‘green.’ Under EU law, particularly the Aarhus Convention, there is a requirement for public participation in environmental decision-making and access to information. NGOs could argue that the proposal lacks a robust scientific justification and that the decision-making process needs to be sufficiently transparent and inclusive.

3. Potential for Legal Action

NGOs may seek legal recourse through various channels if they believe that the EU’s proposal violates European law. This could include filing complaints with the European Commission, initiating legal action before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), or mobilizing public opinion to pressure EU institutions and Member States to reconsider the proposal.


The legal challenges to the EU’s proposal have broader implications for EU environmental law and policy. A legal battle over this issue could set important precedents for how the EU defines and regulates sustainability. It could also influence future policy decisions, particularly those related to the Sustainable Finance Taxonomy and the EU’s approach to combating climate change.

  1. Legal Framework Scrutiny: NGOs challenging the EU’s move to label fossil fuel planes and ships as ‘green’ suggests a critical examination of the legal framework involved in such categorizations.
  2. Environmental Impact Assessment: The legal analysis likely involves an evaluation of the environmental impact assessment criteria applied by the EU in determining the ‘green’ label for fossil fuel-powered transportation.
  3. Transparency and Accountability: NGOs may argue for transparency and accountability in the decision-making process, asserting that the legal standards for labelling should adhere to rigorous and clear criteria that promote genuine environmental benefits.
  4. Greenwashing Concerns: The legal analysis may address concerns related to ‘greenwashing,’ ensuring that the EU’s labelling accurately reflects the sustainability and environmental performance of aviation and maritime sectors.
  5. Alignment with Climate Goals: NGOs might scrutinize whether the labelling aligns with broader climate goals and commitments, questioning whether the EU’s approach is consistent with international agreements and obligations.
  6. Impact on Renewable Alternatives: Legal considerations may delve into how the labelling impacts the development and promotion of renewable alternatives, ensuring that the EU’s actions do not inadvertently undermine the transition to cleaner energy sources.


The EU’s move to label certain fossil fuel-powered planes and ships as ‘green’ has sparked a significant legal and policy debate. Environmental NGOs are at the forefront of challenging this proposal, armed with legal arguments and a commitment to environmental sustainability. The outcome of this dispute will not only affect the specific proposal in question but also shape the future trajectory of EU environmental law and policy. As the situation unfolds, it will be crucial to monitor the legal arguments NGOs present and EU institutions’ responses.

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