The European Union has drawn up plans to label some natural gas and nuclear energy projects as “green” investments after a year-long battle between governments over which investments are truly climate-friendly.
The European Commission is expected to propose rules in January deciding whether gas and nuclear projects will be included in the EU “sustainable finance taxonomy”.
The proposal, seen by AFP on Saturday, aims to support the 27-nation bloc’s shift toward a carbon-neutral future and gild its credentials as a global standard-setter for fighting climate change.
If a majority of member states back it, it will become EU law, coming into effect from 2023.
France continues to make a case for nuclear power, which is its main energy source to be included, despite strong opposition from Austria and skepticism from Germany, who are both in the process of shutting all its nuclear plants.
Fossil-reliant countries in the EU’s east and south have also defended the use of natural gas, at least as a transitional source, even though it still produces significant greenhouse emissions.
“It is necessary to recognize that the fossil gas and nuclear energy sectors can contribute to the decarbonization of the Union’s economy,” the commission proposal says.
By restricting the “green” label to truly climate-friendly projects, the system aims to make those investments more attractive to private capital and stop “greenwashing,” where companies or investors overstate their eco-friendly credentials.
Brussels has also made moves to apply the system to some EU funding, meaning the rules could decide which projects are eligible for certain public finance.
Investments in natural gas power plants would also be deemed green if they produce emissions below 270g of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt hour (kWh), replace a more polluting fossil fuel plant, receive a construction permit by December 31, 2030, and plan to switch to low-carbon gases by the end of 2035.
Gas and nuclear power generation would be labeled green on the grounds that they are “transitional” activities, defined as those that are not fully sustainable but have emissions below industry average and do not lock in polluting assets.
“Taking account of scientific advice and current technological progress as well as varying transition challenges across member states, the commission considers there is a role for natural gas and nuclear as a means to facilitate the transition towards a predominantly renewable-based future,” the European Commission said in a statement.
To help states with varying energy backgrounds to transition, “under certain conditions, solutions can make sense that do not look exactly ‘green’ at first glance,” a Commission source told Reuters, adding that gas and nuclear investments would face “strict conditions.”
The EU’s internal market commissioner Thierry Breton said last month that the European Union needed to be “pragmatic.” He said the bloc will need to double its overall electricity production over the next three decades and that “is simply not possible without nuclear power.”
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: RTE.IE
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