Brussels The EU Commission wants to classify investments in gas and nuclear power plants as climate-friendly under certain conditions. This emerges from a draft of a legal act by the Brussels authority, which became public on New Year’s Day shortly after it was sent to the EU member states.
Because the proposal is considered a compromise and a concession to the interests of EU countries such as Germany and France, it immediately received sharp criticism from environmentalists. With its approach, the EU Commission is undermining its own climate targets, commented, for example, the German Environmental Aid (DUH). Labeling nuclear power and natural gas as sustainable is not credible.
Specifically, the proposal of the EU Commission provides that investments planned in France in new batteries in particular can be classified as green if the systems meet the latest technical standards and if there is a specific plan for the operation of a disposal facility for high-level radioactive waste by 2050 at the latest is presented. Another condition is that the new nuclear facilities receive a building permit by 2045, as can be seen from the text available to the German Press Agency.
Investments in new gas-fired power plants should also be able to be classified as green temporarily, especially at Germany’s request. For example, it should be relevant how many greenhouse gases are emitted. For plants that are approved after December 31, 2030, according to the proposal, only up to 100 grams of so-called CO2 equivalents per kilowatt hour of energy would be allowed – calculated over the life cycle.
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The classification of economic activities by the EU Commission is intended to enable investors to convert their investments to more sustainable technologies and companies and thus make a significant contribution to Europe’s climate neutrality by 2050. However, whether gas and nuclear power should be considered climate-friendly as part of the so-called taxonomy is highly controversial among EU countries.
For example, Germany is against taking up nuclear power, but sees electricity generation from gas as a necessary transition technology towards climate neutrality. For countries like France, on the other hand, nuclear power is a key technology for a carbon-free economy.
Robert Habeck wants to encourage investments in hydrogen
Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck (Greens) has expressed his rejection of the EU Commission’s plan: “The EU Commission’s proposals dilute the good label for sustainability,” Habeck told the German Press Agency in Berlin on Saturday. “From our point of view, it would not have needed this addition to the taxonomy rules. We do not see any approval of the new proposals of the EU Commission, ”said the Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection. There was no mention of any engagement against the Commission proposal.
Habeck criticized: “Labeling nuclear energy of all things as sustainable is wrong with this high-risk technology.” This obscures the view of the long-term effects of nuclear waste on people and the environment. Hard security criteria are also not provided. “That is more than questionable,” said Habeck. “In any case, it is questionable whether this greenwashing will even find acceptance on the financial market,” he emphasized. The federal government will evaluate the Commission’s draft for its effects.
Habeck also criticized the proposed inclusion of fossil gas in the so-called taxonomy. “At least the EU Commission makes it very clear here that gas from fossil fuels is only a transition and that it must be replaced by green hydrogen.”
New gas-fired power plants would have to be geared towards hydrogen now and would be operated with green hydrogen or low-carbon gas from 2035. “That is ambitious and requires large amounts of hydrogen.” One of the major tasks is to encourage appropriate investments in hydrogen. The first corresponding projects are on the track in Germany.
Even more critical voices came from the EU Parliament. “With her proposal, Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen is destroying the credibility of the European eco-label for financial investments,” commented German MP Michael Bloss (Greens).
Putting nuclear power and natural gas on a par with solar and wind power is mocking the previous successes in climate protection and braking the energy transition. Because instead of channeling money into investments in the solar and wind industries, old and extremely costly business models would now be continued under the wrong guise.
The EU member states now have until January 12 to comment on the draft of the legal act sent by the EU Commission late on Friday evening. According to information on Saturday, implementation can only be prevented if a so-called strengthened qualified majority of the member states or a majority in the EU Parliament speaks out against it.
Accordingly, at least 20 EU countries would have to come together in the Council of the EU, representing at least 65 percent of the total population of the EU or at least 353 members in the EU Parliament. That this will happen is considered unlikely, since only countries like Austria, Luxembourg, Denmark and Portugal besides Germany are clearly against taking up nuclear power.
More: Nuclear power, yes please? What France’s nuclear energy offensive means for Germany