Brussels proposes green label for nuclear and natural gas

Brussels wants to recognize nuclear energy and forms of natural gas as a “green” activity as part of a landmark EU classification scheme help financial markets decide what is considered a sustainable investment.

In long-awaited plans, the European Commission has paved the way for investment in new nuclear power plants for at least the next two decades and natural gas for at least a decade, under a green labeling system known as “taxonomy for sustainable financing ”.

The labeling system, which will cover industries that produce about 80 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the EU, is the first attempt by a major global regulator to decide what is considered truly sustainable economic activity and help combat the so-called. financial sector.

The draft legal text, seen by the Financial Times, says the EU’s green label should be awarded to controversial energy sources, including nuclear and natural gas, under certain circumstances.

The decision came after a vocal group of pro-nuclear countries, led by France, and governments advocating for gas in southern and eastern Europe, demanded that the taxonomy should not penalize the energy sources that provide most of their electricity production.

Nuclear energy does not emit greenhouse gases, but it produces toxic waste that requires safe disposal and may pose a risk of radiation. Natural gas does produce carbon dioxide, but its supporters say it is far less polluting than traditional fossil fuels and is a vital way to pave the way for lower emissions.

Earlier this year, Brussels was forced to postpone a decision on how to classify the two energy sources following disputes within the College of Commissioners over whether they should be awarded the green label. The fight to recognize nuclear energy and natural gas as green has intensified in recent months as EU countries faced record electricity prices this winter, spurred by growing demand for natural gas imports.

The draft taxonomic text states that nuclear energy should be considered a sustainable economic activity as long as the EU countries that host power plants can safely dispose of toxic waste and meet the criteria that “there is no significant damage” to the environment. The construction of new nuclear power plants will be recognized as green for permits issued by 2045, the text reads.

Investment in natural gas is also included in the green label as “transitional” energy, but must meet a more detailed set of conditions, including producing emissions of less than 270 g CO2 per kilowatt and replacing traditional fossil fuels such as coal.

The EU imports about three-quarters of its natural gas needs, most of which is supplied by Russia. The bloc’s energy crisis has drawn criticism from some member states that Moscow is artificially raising gas prices and that the EU should speed up giving up gas imports to renewable energy sources.

The text of the taxonomy will need the approval of most EU member states and members of the European Parliament. EU diplomats say the text is likely to receive widespread support from governments, but environmental groups have criticized the green classification for gas and nuclear energy.

French EU Commissioner Thierry Breton said he was in favor of marking both technologies as green as it would help the EU meet its goal of reducing CO2 emissions to zero by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.

“Gas is not the best to achieve our goal because you are generating some CO2, but at least it is better as a transition than coal,” Breton told reporters last month. “We need to have the right funding in the taxonomy, including nuclear energy.”

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