In a document consulted by The Associated Press, the European Commission proposes a classification system to define what counts as an investment in sustainable energy. Under certain conditions, it would allow gas and nuclear energy to be part of it.
This would have a huge impact on nuclear economies, like France, and on Germany’s gas-fired power plants, which otherwise might have had to fundamentally change their strategies.
Energy consumption accounts for around three quarters of greenhouse gas emissions produced in theEU and is therefore essential to the efforts of the 27 member countries to meet their commitments in the fight against global warming.
The proposal, however, needs the support of a large majority of the 27 Member States and a simple majority in the European Parliament. But the initiative of the European Commission is a key element of the procedure.
Classifying investments in gas and nuclear energy as sustainable contradicts the Green Deal of the’ EU, which aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, said Ska Keller, co-chair of the Green Group in the European Parliament.
France has called for nuclear energy to be included in the taxonomy by the end of the year, leading the charge with several other countries in theEU who operate nuclear power plants and want to make it eligible for green funding.
French European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune said the proposal was technically sound and insisted on Sunday that the European bloc
cannot become carbon neutral by 2050 without nuclear energy.
Gas is a polluting fossil fuel, but it is still considered by theEU as a bridging technology to achieve a cleaner energy future.
Critics of Germany
Germany, the largest economy inEU, has a different position. The country shut down half of its six nuclear power plants that were still in operation on Friday, a year before saying goodbye to nuclear power for good.
German Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck criticized plans to classify investments in gas and nuclear power plants as green. He represents the Alliance 90 / The Greens party in the German coalition government.
” European Commission proposals weaken the value of environmental certification “
We do not see how we could approve the new proposals of the European Commission, did he declare.
In any case, one can wonder if this greenwashing will even be accepted on the financial markets., underlined Minister Habeck, referring to the practice of describing investments as sustainable when they are not in reality.
In Austria, Climate Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler, a member of the Greens party, also categorically rejected the proposed regulation, saying that
the European Commission has taken a step towards greenwashing nuclear energy and fossil gas.
They are harmful to the climate and the environment and destroy the future of our children, said the minister.
Environmental body Greenpeace called the Commission’s proposal
” Polluting companies will be delighted to have the seal of approval from the EU to attract investment and continue to destroy the planet by burning fossil gas and producing radioactive waste “
Nuclear power, in particular, remains extremely controversial in Europe, where many still vividly remember the fear that followed the 1986 nuclear accident in Chernobyl, Ukraine. In Germany, children were not allowed to play outside for months, they could not go mushroom hunting for years, and farmers had to destroy all their crops that year.
On the flip side, nuclear power plants emit few pollutants into the air, making them an option as nations around the world seek clean energy to meet their climate change goals.
Climate activists also argue that the use of nuclear power risks slowing the deployment of renewable energy sources.