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25th Jun 2022

Key MEPs ready to vote on 'green' label for gas and nuclear

  • All EU member states are free to choose their energy mix, regardless of what the taxonomy deems as sustainable (Photo: Remflex)
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MEPs from the environment and economy committees will vote on Tuesday (14 June) on a resolution objecting to European Commission plans to classify gas and nuclear energy projects as sustainable investments until 2030.

If adopted by the two committees, the text objecting to the legislation under the so-called EU taxonomy will be voted on in the next plenary session in early July.

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The objection procedure could send the file back to the commission to amend it. Therefore, it remains unclear if the regulation will survive as it currently stands.

European lawmakers have been joining forces to veto the inclusion of gas and nuclear in the taxonomy guidelines since it was adopted by the EU executive early this year.

A coalition of left-wing, centre-left, greens, liberals and far-left MEPs argued that neither gas nor nuclear energy projects meet the strict requirements that the taxonomy legislation sets for what can be called "sustainable" — echoing concerns from the commission's own expert group.

Meanwhile, Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, and EU plans to reduce its reliance on Russian fossil-fuel imports, have increased fears over the green label for gas and nuclear.

Many delegations of European lawmakers have changed their position since the war in Ukraine began, but it is still unclear if there is a majority of MEPs who will oppose the proposal.

Tuesday's vote could shed light on where the majority opinion lies — with tight results likely.

Last week, centre-left Dutch MEP Paul Tang said 80 percent of his party would vote against the commission proposal. Other groups have shown a more divisive position.

Credibility issue

The inclusion of gas and nuclear is widely seen as a compromise pushed through by an alliance of French pro-nuclear forces and mainly eastern European countries defending the role of gas in the decarbonisation of the EU's economy.

But critics say this move risks undermining the credibility of the EU sustainable agenda as a whole.

"This was a product that was supposed to be based on science, but now it's based on politics," liberal MEP Emma Wiesner told a press conference last week.

The taxonomy does not ban investment in activities not included in the guidelines, but it is designed to drive investment towards the transition and prevent companies and investors from falsely claiming to be environmentally sustainable.

And at the same time, all EU member states will remain free to choose their energy mix, regardless of what the taxonomy deems as sustainable.

But an increasing number of MEPs have argued that the inclusion of gas and nuclear in the rules for sustainable finance would make Europe more dependent on Russia.

Wiesner warned that the more the EU incentivises gas networks, the more dependent it will be on the use of this fossil fuel — and consequently on Russia.

"We can't accept to finance a war machine even further," said Luxembourgish lawmaker Christophe Hansen referring to the EU's current payment for Russian energy.

Meanwhile, campaigners have also raised concerns over the signal that the parliament will send to EU member states.

"The war has highlighted the urgency to move away from gas as quickly as possible, not just for environmental reasons but also for Europe's energy security," Bryan Coughlan from the Brussels-based European Consumer Organisation told EUobserver.

He also warned that the inclusion of gas and nuclear as a sustainable investment would be misleading to consumers.

Lawyers threaten action over new EU gas and nuclear rules

Environmental lawyers are threatening to take legal action against the European Commission if gas is included in the EU guidelines for sustainable finances. But the draft taxonomy has also triggered discontent among some EU national capitals and MEPs.

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.

Opinion

EU gas lobby in celebration mode

Eurogas is a considerable fossil fuel lobby power in Brussels, with nine lobbyists that hold passes to the European Parliament, and a body that has secured over 50 meetings with EU Commission officials since 2014.

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