The European Union has drawn up plans to label some natural gas and nuclear power plants as “transitional” or “green” investments as long as they meet specific criteria, such as the displacement of more polluting coal plants.
The European Commission is expected to propose rules in January to decide whether nuclear and gas projects will be included in the EU’s “sustainable finance taxonomy.”
This is a list of economic activities and the environmental criteria that must be met to be labeled as green investments. By restricting the “green” label to truly climate-friendly projects, the system aims to make those investments more attractive to private equity and stop “greenwashing,” where companies or investors exaggerate their green credentials.
Brussels has also taken steps to apply the taxonomy to some EU funds, meaning that the rules could decide which projects are eligible for certain public funds.
A draft of the Commission proposal, obtained by EURACTIV, considers both natural gas and nuclear energy as transitional fuels.
I would label investments in nuclear power plants as green if the project has a plan, funds and a site to safely dispose of radioactive waste. To be considered green, new nuclear plants must receive construction permits before 2045.
Extending the useful life of existing power plants will also be considered green “in view of the long lead times for investments in new nuclear generation capacity,” the draft says. However, to be considered green, they must “include security modifications and updates” to ensure they meet “the highest achievable security standards,” according to the draft.
Investments in natural gas power plants would also be considered green if they produce emissions of less than 270 g of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour, replace a more polluting fossil fuel plant, and receive a building permit before December 31, 2030. Such investments Plants must meet other conditions including that they are technically equipped to burn low-carbon gases.
Gas and nuclear power generation would be labeled as green because they are “transitional” activities, defined as one that is not fully sustainable, but has emissions below the industry average and does not lock Europe in polluting assets during the switch to clean energy. .
“Taking into account current scientific advice and technological progress, as well as the different transition challenges between member states, the Commission considers that natural gas and nuclear energy have a role as a means of facilitating the transition to a predominantly based future. in renewables, “said the European. The commission said in a statement, adding that consultations on a draft began on Friday.
To help states with different energy backgrounds make the transition, “under certain conditions, solutions may make sense that they don’t look exactly ‘green’ at first glance,” a Commission source told Reuters.
However, natural gas and nuclear power will be subject to strict conditions, the official added.
EU countries and a panel of expert advisers will analyze the draft proposal, which could change before it is published later in January. EU member states had until January 12 to provide comments, EURACTIV understands.
Once published, the proposal can be vetoed by most EU countries or by the European Parliament, but cannot be changed.
The policy has been embroiled in government lobbying for more than a year and EU countries disagree on which fuels are truly sustainable.
Natural gas emits about half of the CO2 emissions of coal when burned in power plants, but gas infrastructure is also associated with leaks of methane, a powerful gas that warms the planet.
EU expert advisers had recommended that gas plants not be labeled as green investments unless they meet a lower emissions limit of 100g CO2 / kwh, based on the deep emission cuts that scientists say , are necessary to avoid disastrous climate change.
Nuclear power produces very low CO2 emissions, but the Commission sought expert advice this year on whether the fuel should be considered green given the potential environmental impact of radioactive waste disposal.
Brussels finalized the rules last year for parts of the green list that include sectors such as construction and transport, and as of this month, investments not included in the taxonomy cannot be marketed as climate-friendly in the EU. The gas and nuclear power rules will come into effect later.
EU countries including the Czech Republic, Finland and France, which get around 70% of their energy from nuclear power, consider it crucial to phase out CO2-emitting coal fuel power.
However, other countries, such as Luxembourg, Germany and Austria, are strongly against nuclear power.
On Saturday, Luxembourg’s energy minister, Claude Turmes said on Twitter that the proposal ran the risk of allowing a greenwash. He added that he and the German and Austrian ministers would examine the proposal in detail and discuss further steps.
Green MEPs have also criticized him, with German lawmaker Michael Bloss writing on Twitter: “Labeling nuclear energy and gas as green is pure green washing! Unfortunately, the EU Commission under Ursula von der Leyen now it has done just that. We the Greens / EFA, clearly oppose this. [A] true european The energy transition is only possible with 100% renewable energy! “
> The full draft of the document can be viewed below or downloaded here:
Draft CDA 12-31-2021