Draft European Union plans that would allow nuclear and gas energy to continue to be part of the bloc’s path to a climate-friendly future came under immediate criticism over the weekend
BRUSSELS – The European Union’s draft plans that would allow nuclear and gas energy to continue to be part of the bloc’s path to a climate-friendly future were the subject of immediate criticism this weekend of the from environmentalists and some ruling political parties in EU member states.
In the draft conclusions consulted by the Associated Press, the EU Executive Board 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 the mix.
The plans would have a huge impact on nuclear economies like France and on gas-fired power plants in Germany, as they might have had to fundamentally change their strategies.
Energy consumption accounts for around three quarters of greenhouse gas emissions produced in the EU and is therefore essential to the efforts of the bloc of 27 countries to meet its commitments in the fight against global warming.
The plans still need the support of a large majority of the 27 member states and a simple majority in the European Parliament. But the initial push from the European Commission is a key part of the transition process.
“Classifying investments in gas and nuclear energy as sustainable contradicts the Green Deal”, the EU initiative which aims to make the bloc climate neutral by 2050, said Ska Keller, chairman of the Greens group in the European Parliament.
France has called for nuclear energy to be included in the so-called ‘taxonomy’ by the end of the year, leading the charge with several other EU countries that operate nuclear power plants and want to make it eligible green financing.
French European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune said the proposal was technically sound and insisted on Sunday that the bloc “cannot become carbon neutral by 2050 without nuclear power.
Germany, the EU’s largest economy, goes the other way, with Germany shutting down half of the six nuclear power plants it still had in operation on Friday, a year before the country pulled back the curtain final on its use of atomic energy for decades.
Gas is a polluting fossil fuel, but it is still seen by the EU as a bridge technology to achieve a cleaner energy future.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck criticized plans to classify investments in gas and nuclear power plants as climate friendly.
“The European Commission’s proposals weaken the right label for sustainability,” told German news agency dpa Habeck, which represents the German Green Greens in the country’s coalition government. “We do not see how to approve the new proposals of the European Commission,” he said.
“In any case, one can wonder if this greenwashing will even be accepted on the financial market“, underlined Habeck, referring to the practice of describing investments as sustainable when they are not in reality.
In Austria, Climate Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler of the Greens also categorically rejected the proposed regulation, saying “the European Commission has taken a step towards greenwashing nuclear energy and fossil gas in a night and fog action “.
“They are harmful to the climate and the environment and destroy the future of our children,” said Gewessler.
The environmental NGO Greenpeace has described the Commission’s draft proposals as “greenwashing permits”.
“Polluting companies will be delighted to have the EU seal of approval to attract money and continue to destroy the planet by burning fossil gas and producing radioactive waste,” said Magda Stoczkiewicz of Greenpeace.
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, could not go mushroom hunting for years, and farmers had to destroy their entire crop the same 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.
Grieshaber reported from Berlin. Barbara Surk contributed from Nice, France.