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20th Jan 2022

Czech Republic seeks allies to oppose new EU 'green' gas rules

  • The Czech Republic will try to ally with other EU member states to change green rules for gas and nuclear (Photo: EUobserver)
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The Czech Republic will try to ally with other European countries to change the EU's new sustainable investment plan conditions.

The EU Commission presented its new draft guidelines for green investments on the evening of 31 December.

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After months of debate and political lobbying the commission decided to include nuclear and gas as a 'green' investment.

After initial enthusiasm, the Czech Republic signalled on Tuesday (4 January) it wants to modify these rules.

"Our main task now is to reach out to like-minded EU member states and try [...] to negotiate better conditions that will more reflect our interests," industry minister Jozef Sikela tweeted on Monday.

Reuters reported that a proposed requirement for having 30-percent hydrogen mixed in gas fuel for power plants by 2026 was especially jarring, with one industry insider calling it 'too strict'.

EU member states can comment on the plan until next Wednesday (12 January), and the commission hopes it can adopt a final text by the end of the month.

Austria and Germany have firmly rejected the proposal, accusing the EU executive of "greenwashing".

"We will scrutinise the current draft and have already commissioned a legal opinion on nuclear power in the taxonomy. If these plans are implemented in this way, we will sue" Austria's climate minister Leonore Gewessler has said.

EU countries can still reject the proposal if they can form a supermajority of 15 in the council.

However, chances such a majority will form appear slim.

But opposition to the inclusion of natural gas is broad, with the German government split on the issue.

The proposal "dilutes the good label for sustainability" economy and climate minister Robert Habeck said in a statement, adding that he did not believe the German government will agree to it.

However, finance minister Christian Lindner from the pro-business FDP welcomed the inclusion of gas.

"Germany needs modern gas-fired power plants as a transitional technology because we are doing away coal and nuclear power," he told Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper on Sunday.

Sandrine Dixson-Declève, co-president of the Club of Rome and member of the commission's advisory Platform on Sustainable Finance, also responded dismissively, saying that under no circumstances can not be classified as 'green.'

"The moves to label natural gas as a transitional activity […] is completely misleading," she said.

Analysis

Are nuclear and gas green? Depends if you ask EU or experts

The taxonomy for sustainable activities was meant to be a purely science-based classification system - but it has become bogged down by political infighting (not least between Paris and Berlin), threatening its credibility.

Analysis

Hydrogen - the 'no-lose bet' for fossil-fuel industry?

The EU plans to label natural gas as 'green' in sustainable investment rules. From 2026 it will have to be blended with low-carbon gases like green hydrogen - but many scientists warn this is inefficient, costly and damaging to health.

EU gas and nuclear rules derided as 'biggest greenwash ever'

Experts and activists have warned the European Commission that including natural gas and nuclear power in its plan for sustainable finance will lead to further greenwashing, split financial markets and undermine the bloc's climate objectives.

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