EU taxonomy, a nice coat of green on gas and nuclear power, but it's a storm

The European Commission is criticizing the idea that gas and nuclear energy are considered "green" energy.

Gianluca Riccio

The European Commission is facing a furious backlash over its plans to allow gas and nuclear to be listed as "green" investments, with Germany's economy minister leading the charge against greenwashing. This seems like it, in the end: a nice coat of green on nuclear power. How about?

The draft proposal (seen in advance by the Guardian newspaper) would provide for the inclusion of gas and nuclear power in the EU's "taxonomy of environmentally sustainable economic activities", under certain conditions.

The taxonomy is a classification system intended to direct billions to clean energy projects to meet the EU's goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

“Sustainable” gas and nuclear power: Germany, Austria and Luxembourg are not in it

German Robert Habeck, who just last month became minister for the economy and climate action, says these plans are not good for sustainability at all.

green gas and nuclear power
Robert Habeck, German Greens

From Austria he echoes him Leonore Gewessler, minister for climate action, who threatens to sue the commission if the plans go ahead. “Neither gas nor nuclear,” says Gewessler, “are part of the taxonomy, because they are harmful to the climate and the environment and destroy the future of our children.”

“We will carefully review the current draft and have already commissioned a legal opinion on nuclear energy in the taxonomy. If these plans are implemented in this way, we will sue."

Same harsh tones from the Luxembourg Energy Minister, Claude Turmes, who described the draft as a provocation.

However, opponents are not expected to secure the supermajority needed to block the plans.

France, Czech Republic and Hungary for gas and nuclear. It's Italy?

Some pro-nuclear countries, such as France and Hungary, want to include nuclear power in the deal even though most other central and eastern European countries do not want it. It's Italy? Niche. Greenpeace, Legambiente and WWF have been around for days to the minister for the ecological transition Cingolani to take a clear position, not a rearguard one, not conditioned by the lobbies. “When questioned, the dead man did not respond”, cit.

The crux of the issue could be resolved "thanks" to the gas conditions. That could be the compromise (yet another later COP26) that will eventually make everyone agree?

A natural gas extraction plant in Groningen, the Netherlands. Gas could be classified as a “sustainable investment” under certain conditions. Photograph: Cris Toala Olivares/Getty Images

After all, the finance minister in Germany (not from the Greens) Christian Lindner said on Sunday the country needed gas-fired power plants as a transition technology given its renunciation of coal and nuclear power.

Germany closed three of its six nuclear power plants last Friday, to meet a pledge to phase out the technology by the end of 2022.

A beautiful and good sabotage

In my humble ignorance I believe this measure is understandable on an economic and also on an energy level, but disastrous on an environmental level. For a very simple reason: classifying gas as a "sustainable investment" in the event that "the same energy capacity cannot be generated with renewables" means crippled renewables. Without compromise.

It's like letting off the accelerator just when you should be completing an overtake, when it's time to push harder. I won't comment on nuclear power, it could be included if a project shows that it has a plan to treat radioactive waste. Exists? Inform me.

I young climate activists they see this “false climate action” as incompatible with the EU's goal of net zero emissions by 2050. And frankly, so do I.

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Alberto Robiati and Gianluca Riccio guide readers through scenarios of the future: the opportunities, risks and possibilities we have to create a possible tomorrow.