EU to award ‘green’ finance label for gas and nuclear investments

The European Parliament voted on Wednesday (6 July) in favour of plans to award a green investment label to nuclear and gas projects, amid loud protests from green activists, who denounced the “betrayal” of MEPs’ climate commitments.


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EU to award ‘green’ finance label for gas and nuclear investments

Green groups argue that the taxonomy could encourage investments that will prevent the EU from reaching its emissions targets

A motion to veto the European Commission’s proposal to include nuclear and gas in the EU’s sustainable finance taxonomy was defeated by 328 votes to 278.

A minimum of 353 votes was needed to reject the plan, which means it is now officially approved by the European Parliament.

Before it becomes law, the proposal to include nuclear and gas in the EU’s green finance taxonomy must also face a vote in the EU Council of Ministers representing the EU’s 27 member states. However, a majority of 20 countries is needed to veto the proposal in the Council, which makes a rejection highly unlikely.

Reacting on Twitter, the energy minister of Luxembourg said he would challenge the decision before the EU Court of Justice. “Luxembourg and Denmark will press legal charges and the Court will rule about its legality,” wrote Claude Turmes, saying he deeply regrets the Parliament’s decision. Other factions having reportedly considered a legal challenge include the Green Party in Germany.

Protestors in the hemicycle reacted immediately after the vote, wearing T-shirts reading “betrayal” and calling MEPs “traitors”.

Michael Bloss, a German Green MEP, denounced the “madness” of labelling nuclear and gas as sustainable investments, saying it will keep Europe addicted to Russian fossil fuels for many more years.

“France’s nuclear reactors and waste dumps will be renovated and new fossil gas infrastructures created,” Bloss said in a statement. “No serious bank will trust this Taxonomy,” he added, saying the Greens were now preparing to take legal action against the decision.

Greta Thunberg, the teenage activist who started the Fridays for Future movement, reacted coldly on Twitter, saying the vote will delay the green transition and “deepen our dependency on Russian fuels”.

“The hypocrisy is striking, but unfortunately not surprising,” she wrote.

Some welcomed the move

Pascal Canfin, a French MEP who chairs the Parliament’s environment committee, sought to assuage the concerns of green activists, reminding them that the taxonomy does not give a blank cheque to all gas investments.

“The conditions set by the taxonomy for gas are precise: gas is only possible to replace coal, until 2030, under emission thresholds that are not considered dangerous and with reinforced transparency obligations,” he wrote on Twitter.

Nuclear Europe, an industry association, congratulated MEPs after the vote, saying Parliament had taken a “science-based decision” to include nuclear in the taxonomy.

“It is fantastic to see that a majority in the European Parliament has decided to listen to the experts and take the right decision,” said Yves Desbazeille, director-general of Nuclear Europe.

“We have less than 30 years left to decarbonise our economy in a sustainable way. By listening to the science, these MEPs have strengthened the EU’s chances of achieving this ambitious goal.”

Eurogas, an industry lobby group, was also cheerful, saying the Parliament’s decision “provides a decent framework” for future investments.

However, it said the European Commission’s taxonomy proposal “could have done more to promote coal phase-out and the adoption of best-in-class technologies” such as hydrogen and renewable gases.

“It is also crucial that we overcome bottlenecks for imports of diversified natural gas and LNG [liquified natural gas], and renewable hydrogen,” said James Watson, secretary-general of Eurogas.

Ahead of the vote, the Ukrainian energy ministry called on EU lawmakers to “positively consider” proposals to label gas and nuclear as green transition technologies under the EU’s sustainable finance taxonomy. The body stated that the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine “will require a predictable and conducive investment climate for all technologies” including nuclear and gas, with both nuclear and “indigenous gas production” expected to remain “a strong backbone for ensuring security of energy supply and sovereignty of Ukraine in next decade (up to 2030)”.

Frederic Simon, EurActiv.com

This article first appeared on EurActiv.com, an edie content partner

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