Electricity

Gas and nuclear’s green taxonomy prospects divided European institutions

Gas and nuclear’s green taxonomy prospects divided European institutions

Photo: Alain ROLLAND / EP

Published

June 16, 2022

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Published:

June 16, 2022

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MEPs opposed the European Commission’s plan to include nuclear energy and gas in the list of environmentally sustainable economic activities covered by the so-called EU taxonomy. The two responsible committees consider that the proposal does not respect the sustainability criteria. Unraveling over the financing of gas and nuclear projects is expected in the European Parliament in early July.

MEPs adopted an objection to the Commission’s proposal to include certain activities in the production of energy from gas and in nuclear power plants in the list of environmentally sustainable economic activities covered by the EU taxonomy.

The technical standards proposed by the Commission do not meet the criteria for environmentally sustainable economic activities

The proposal was rejected by 76 votes to 62, with 4 abstentions at the joint session of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee and Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee.

“MEPs recognize the role of nuclear and fossil gas in guaranteeing stable energy supply during the transition to a sustainable economy. But, they consider that the technical screening standards proposed by the Commission, in its delegated regulation, to support their inclusion do not respect the criteria for environmentally sustainable economic activities as set out in Article 3 of the Taxonomy Regulation,” European Parliament notes in a statement.

Absolute majority required to overturn Commission’s proposal

At the beginning of March, European Commission made a proposition to include fossil gas and nuclear energy in the sustainable investment taxonomy.

The EU Executive Body sees gas and nuclear as transitional fuels on the way to a carbon-neutral Europe. Under certain conditions, these fuels could be included in the list of environmentally sustainable economic activities covered by the taxonomy.

However, since the committees have adopted an objection to the Commission’s proposal, investments in nuclear power plants and gas will be decided by the full assembly of Parliament in July.

Parliament and the Council have until 11 July to decide whether to veto the Commission’s proposal

Voting on the resolution is scheduled for a plenary session of the EU’s highest legislative institution from July 4th to 7th. Parliament and the European Council have until 11 July to decide whether to veto the Commission’s proposal. If the absolute majority of at least 353 MEPs reject the proposal, the Commission will have to withdraw or amend it.

Strict conditions, for and against

The Commission stated that gas and nuclear power plants must meet strict conditions to obtain the green label. However, the proposal itself reflects disagreements among member countries about what energy sources to use to achieve climate objectives, as well as whether to use transitional fuels.

It is now up to the European Parliament to decide whether the Commission’s proposal to classify gas and nuclear energy as green investments is coherent with the current geopolitical context and climate crisis, according to the European Environment Bureau (EEB), which strongly opposes the proposal.

Germany opposes declaring nuclear energy sustainable and cites concerns about waste disposal. France is spearheading pro-nuclear states that stand for the view that this energy source is key to achieving climate goals because it does not generate carbon dioxide emissions.

Eastern European countries consider investing in gas to replace more polluting coal

Eastern European countries are considering investing in gas to replace more polluting coal, but this is accompanied by the argument that labeling gas emissions as green and sustainable undermine efforts to curb climate change. Opponents of the proposal point out that it is necessary to invest in renewable energy sources instead of gas and nuclear power plants.

Significance of taxonomy and criticism of the plan

The purpose of the taxonomy of the European Union, i.e. the list of sustainable investments in the EU, is to direct private capital towards investments that lead to the achievement of goals in the climate change struggle. The taxonomy regulation is part of the commission’s action plan for financing sustainable growth.

Recently, the European Court of Auditors revealed that out of a total of EUR 216 billion that the EU reported in climate action spending from the 2014-2020 budget, 72 billion euros went to purposes that cannot be characterized as such.

Out of a total of 216 billion euros that the European Commission claimed were spent on climate action from the 2014-2020 budget, one-third did not go to these purposes

The EEB points out that the abuse of climate funds has become common practice, and reveals that the green transition is not progressing as fast as they claim.

Billions of euros will be diverted from wind, solar plants, and heat pumps to fossil fuel infrastructure and “everlasting nuclear waste” if the European Commission’s proposal is approved, the EEB warned.

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