Friday, December 8, 2023

The European Parliament is tempted to remove gas and nuclear from the taxonomy

The obstacle course of European taxonomy continues. On Tuesday, in Brussels, two major committees of the European Parliament spoke out against the European Commission’s plan to include, by delegated act, gas and nuclear among the energies classified as “green” in the European Union in order to attract investment.

During a joint meeting, MEPs from the Economic Affairs and Environment Committees thus adopted an objection to the Commission’s draft (76 for the objection, 62 against, 4 abstentions). Consequently, this project will have to be voted on in plenary session at the beginning of July. If the Parliament then vetoes, the Commission will have to abandon the text or come back with a new proposal.

Not durable enough

It would be a real disaster scenario for the promoters of this taxonomy as it stands. At the forefront of which is France, which is very keen to include nuclear power, whose entirely carbon-free nature and ability to produce electricity at low cost it praises. Berlin, for its part, wants to include gas as a necessary tool, at least for a while yet, for the transition to sustainable energies.

On Tuesday, MEPs on the contrary considered that the technical standards for including them in the taxonomy “do not meet the criteria for environmentally sustainable activities”. According to them, gas, even the most efficient, would be too polluting, and with nuclear power would come the question of the long-term consequences of waste. To include them would be to discredit the taxonomy and the investments that would be devoted to these two energies of yesterday would be as much less for the energies of tomorrow, renewables.

The dice are not cast

The Greens of the European Parliament applauded this setback inflicted on “the largest greenwashing operation of the moment” and called this vote a “slap” for France. NGOs also welcomed a “positive” signal. For ClientEarth, this vote “is the nail in the coffin of the inclusion of gas” in green finance, “blatant climate self-sabotage”.

These votes “do not necessarily predict the result in plenary”, however, underline several European sources. MEPs from central Europe, states that play big with the inclusion of nuclear power and gas, are under-represented in the two committees that voted, but will be present in plenary. The voting methods will also count: a positive majority is required for the objection. In other words, the absentees and the abstentionists will play in favor of the Commission’s text.


Proponents of the text have already taken up their pilgrim’s stick. In a column published online Monday, MEP Pascal Canfin (Renew), chairman of the Environment Committee, fiercely defended the compromise reached by Paris, Berlin and the European Commission. He recalls that many safeguards are planned, such as the fact that any new gas installation must imperatively replace a coal plant, or that the taxonomy will clearly make it possible to distinguish financial products including or not including gas and nuclear, to allow investors to act consciously.

On the side of the European Council, a dozen States oppose the inclusion of nuclear power, others refuse to include gas. But no camp is able to obtain the qualified majority necessary to reject the very difficult compromise. It is indeed in Parliament, at the beginning of July, that the decisive vote will be played in this file which divides Europe so much.


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