Cross-party alliance seeks to block nuclear and gas from EU green taxonomy –

Lawmakers in the European Parliament have formed a cross-party coalition to try to prevent nuclear power and fossil gas from receiving a green investment label under the EU’s green finance taxonomy.

The multi-party coalition has object to a European Commission proposal, tabled late last year, to include fossil gas and nuclear power in the EU’s list of green investments as “transitional” energy sources.

The objection was submitted ahead of a vote in parliament’s economy and environment committees, which are meeting in joint session on Tuesday June 14 to decide their position on the proposal.

Whatever the outcome, the motion will then be put to a deciding vote again in the July plenary of Parliament, which will have the final say on the matter.

A simple majority – or at least 353 MEPs – is needed in plenary to kill the proposal and the joint committee vote is seen as a dress rehearsal for that.

“For us, of course, it is not acceptable to qualify gas and nuclear as sustainable and to allow the green finances of the future to finance these projects,” said Christophe Hansen, a Luxembourg deputy from the European People’s Party (EPP). ) center-right. , the largest political group in Parliament.

Hansen was talking at a press conference on June 8 alongside colleagues from other political groups, including the centrist Renew Europe, the Greens, Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the Left.

“That doesn’t mean we won’t need gas and nuclear in the next few years,” Hansen said. “But we’re just of the view that you shouldn’t abuse or launder sustainable finance to do that.”

It is very rare for such a wide range of political groups to oppose something “with one voice”, said Silvia Modig from the left, adding: “I hope this shows you how parliament takes this effort seriously.”

The resolution opposes the labeling of nuclear and gas as green, especially after the outbreak of war in Ukraine and the EU executive’s handling of the dossier.

Fury in Parliament as EU green taxonomy deadline expires

European lawmakers from all political walks of life are furious at the European Commission’s refusal to consult them adequately on a draft proposal to label gas and nuclear as a ‘transitional’ energy source, say parliamentary sources. at EURACTIV.

To make calculations

However, it is still uncertain whether the coalition has the necessary manpower to block the Commission’s proposal.

“Both votes will be very close,” said Bas Eickhout, a Dutch Greens MEP who opposes the inclusion of nuclear and gas in the taxonomy. “There is no guaranteed majority, but I remain convinced that we can stop this. Tomorrow will be a good indication for plenary majorities,” he told EURACTIV.

His colleague Michael Bloss, a Green MEP from Germany, did the math. “We’ve calculated the numbers and it’s almost equal,” he said at an event in Brussels on Monday evening (June 13).

According to his calculations, the Parliament’s economic and environmental committees are almost evenly split on the issue, with 67 to 68 MPs ready to oppose or approve the inclusion of gas and nuclear in the taxonomy.

“If we win, I think there will be momentum for the plenary,” Bloss said. “This vote tomorrow doesn’t really make sense because even if we lose, that same objection will go to the plenary anyway.”

According to S&D MP Paul Tang on June 8, “more than 80%” of his group is opposed to the inclusion of nuclear and gas in the taxonomy, with some national delegations still deciding and only the Finnish delegation supporting it.

Renew Europe, the EPP and the left are also divided on the subject, according to lawmakers from these groups.

If the objection is accepted, the inclusion of nuclear and fossil gas will still be voted on by the entire European Parliament in July. In case of failure, it will be tabled again during the plenary vote.

But “if it passes, then it’s a clear signal,” said Martin Hojsík, a Slovak lawmaker with Renew Europe.

Impact of the war in Ukraine

While groups like the S&D and the Greens opposed the inclusion of nuclear power and fossil gas from the outset, the war in Ukraine has prompted more lawmakers to oppose it.

“Gas as a transition fuel is dead,” Hojsík told EURACTIV, referring to the idea that fossil gas could act as a bridge away from coal. However, this notion was shattered by the outbreak of war and concerns over fossil fuel payments funding the Kremlin’s war machine.

His colleague Emma Wiesner criticized previous EU policies aimed at reducing dependence on Russian gas after the annexation of Crimea. After that, the EU’s dependence on Russian gas increased.

“We cannot afford to repeat the same mistake and that is why we must oppose this illegal greenwashing,” she told reporters.

The possibility of further supporting Russian gas by granting it a green label has not gone unnoticed in Ukraine.

“Gas and nuclear in the EU taxonomy are a very clear gift for Putin to fuel his war machine against Ukrainians,” said Svitlana Romanko, Ukrainian environmental lawyer and coordinator of the Stand With campaign. Ukraine.

“The EU is sabotaging its own efforts to reduce its dependence on Russia and end the war in Ukraine,” she told EURACTIV. She pointed to the fact that EU lawmakers have already voted to ban all Russian energy imports, including gas and nuclear fuel, and called on lawmakers to support the objection.

Meanwhile, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, Inna Sovsun, wrote on Twitter“Labelling gas as climate-friendly is [a] departure from the green future and a gift to Putin to continue the war.

An initiative for Berlin and Paris

The skepticism surrounding the inclusion of nuclear and fossil gas is also echoed in the financial world. During public audience On Monday May 30, Nancy Saich, chief expert on climate change at the European Investment Bank (EIB), explained that investors looking for green investments are in no rush to invest their money in nuclear. and gas.

“We want to use our resources to focus on low carbon solutions because the climate crisis is just as urgent as before,” she added.

Since the proposal was tabled, there have been criticisms that it was a purely political decision to please France’s nuclear industry and Germany’s gas appetite, rather than a decision based on science or the wishes of the market.

It was “rigged in favor of Germany and France”, Tang said.

“It is private money that is needed for the transition to the larger countries, which are perfectly capable of financing the transition and therefore more and more S&D delegations are realizing that it is not up to them. ‘advantage [of national delegations],” he added.

“This vote is ultimately about whether we’re going to turn taxonomy into less of a science-based instrument and less of a market-based instrument and much more of a political tool,” Hojsík said.

However, according to experts, nuclear energy can make a substantial contribution to achieving EU climate goals.

During the taxonomy debate, French Renew Europe lawmaker Gilles Boyer came out in favor of nuclear, saying it was necessary to achieve EU goals of energy independence and phase-out. progressive fossil fuels.

“Can we really imagine that we will be able to achieve our objectives without investing additional funds in nuclear? he said.

Speaking to EURACTIV, he explained that the EU treaties clearly state that each EU country can choose its own energy mix. Some EU countries have chosen nuclear because of its lack of carbon emissions and security of supply, he added.

He pointed a Evaluation by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center which found that the full life cycle impact of nuclear energy on humans and the environment is below harmful levels.

“The discussion about gas and nuclear, which has been going on for some time, has perhaps become a more mainstream discussion since the start of the war in Ukraine,” Boyer told EURACTIV.

“I think some people who may not have considered some of the benefits of a reliable zero-emission nuclear power supply have reconsidered. I believe that many have reinforced their determination that the EU must move away from Russian gas as soon as possible and that this need has become even more urgent,” he added.

In France, the inclusion of nuclear in the taxonomy could help its aging nuclear fleet. The country has more than 56 reactors, many of which are on the verge of reaching or exceeding 40 years of age.

In October 2020, the French energy company EDF estimated that investments worth 49.4 billion euros were needed to maintain reactors that are over 40 years old. If nuclear fails to fit into the taxonomy, EDF’s survival in its current form could be in question, threatening France’s energy security, observers say.

Germany, for its part, has adopted an ambiguous position. In its comments in Brussels, Berlin first reiterated its opposition to nuclear power while calling on the European Commission to ease restrictions on fossil gas in the transition to a low-carbon energy system.

He later said he would oppose the inclusion of fossil gas and nuclear power in the taxonomy.

The Green Brief: Who wants to kill European taxonomy?

While Germany’s reaction to the EU’s green finance taxonomy proposal has garnered a lot of attention in Brussels, European Commission officials are likely more concerned about reactions in the European Parliament. Otherwise, they should be.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon. Additional reporting by Paul Messad and Frédéric Simon]

Joseph K. Bennett