By exactly 50 votes, the plenary session of the European Parliament has endorsed that gas and nuclear are considered green energies.
In a vote held this Wednesday in Strasbourg, the EU hemicycle has refused to present objections to the controversial delegated act on taxonomy adopted by the European Commission in February.
To avoid the entry into force of this provision, which seeks to classify nuclear and gas as energies that can contribute to the fight against climate change and, therefore, deserve a green label that can attract multi-million dollar investments, it would only be the possibility that the Council of the EU will oppose it before next Monday, something almost in all probability ruled out.
In this way, the inclusion of both in the group of transition technologies, that is, those that cannot yet be replaced by other low-emission and more sustainable technologies, will take effect from January 1, 2023.
The proposal of the Community Executive has been divisive from the beginning, to the point that it had to be the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who took the reins of its adoption at the beginning of the year, with a vote also adjusted in the college of commissioners (the equivalent of the council of ministers) shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine.
The measure supposes to accommodate the requests of countries such as France, which demanded an express recognition of nuclear energy as a source free of CO₂ emissions, and Germany, which requested the inclusion of gas as a necessary source for the transition towards a system based on in renewables.
“Gas is a fossil fuel, it is not green.
And I have never described it that way, ”said Mairead McGuinness, European Commissioner for Financial Services, during the parliamentary debate held in the European Parliament the previous day.
"But some member states moving away from dirty fossil fuels may need gas in the transition, and that's where we've placed gas in this taxonomy," she noted.
Regarding nuclear energy, the commissioner highlighted its "low carbon emissions" against the fact that it has "supporters and detractors", so, as she said, "it is also part of our energy mix in transition".
Criticism from the climate community
The decision adopted in Parliament has immediately sparked criticism from the climate community for considering that they deviate from what, in theory, the so-called sustainable finances should represent.
NGOs such as Greenpeace have announced their intention to take the European Commission to court "for adopting a taxonomy that does not meet the climate objectives agreed in the Paris Agreement," according to a statement from the European Climate Foundation.
"Gas and nuclear energy are not green, and labeling them as such is a blatant case of
," said Ester Asin, director of the WWF political office.
"This harms the climate and future generations!"
The war and the energy crisis derived from Moscow's dependence on fuels have also served as a catalyst in the vote on Wednesday.
“It is a reality that alternative gas infrastructures to Russian sources are needed and this facilitates financing”, recognizes the socialist MEP Javi López, despite the fact that he, like the majority of his party, has voted in favor of reversing the taxonomy, "because that should not happen by qualifying them as green".
A group of activists demonstrates during the vote in the European Parliament, this Wednesday in Strasbourg. JULIEN WARNAND (EFE)
“Given the urgency of moving away from Russian fossil fuels, we need to scale up those investments [in renewable energy and energy efficiency] with a renewed sense of urgency,” Commissioner McGuinness also said during the debate the day before.
The majority of the popular Europeans and the liberals of Renew have decided to endorse the decision of the Community Executive with their vote, as have almost all of the extreme right-wing groups in the hemicycle (ECR and ID).
Socialists, greens and the European left have positioned themselves against the classification.
In total, 278 MEPs voted in favor of the objection (ie against the current taxonomy), 328 against and 33 abstained.
“What is taxonomy for?
It serves to harmonize the claims of what green investments are, ”explained the green MEP Bas Eickhout, one of the rapporteurs on the delegated act, during the debate on Tuesday.
"As soon as the rules of the taxonomy are met, there is a green label and a green bonus can be obtained."
For this reason, he claimed: "We must put a stop to this delegated act."
This Wednesday, Eickhout has reacted immediately.
“It is a black day for the climate and the energy transition”, he has said.
"We are sending a disastrous signal to investors and the rest of the world that the EU now recognizes fossil gas and nuclear power as sustainable investments."
Apart from this position of the European Parliament, the Council of the EU, which represents the Member States and is the other co-legislator in the EU, can still reject the approach of the Community Executive if before midnight on July 11 they oppose the 72% of the countries (20 out of 27) and these represent at least 65% of the population of the European Union (about 290 million people), something almost certainly discarded.
Spain is one of the countries that has most opposed granting gas and atomic energy the “green” label.
The provision adopted by the Commission includes "certain nuclear energy activities that can play a role, under strict conditions in terms of nuclear and environmental safety (also related to waste disposal), in the transition of the EU towards climate neutrality" , according to a guide prepared by the Community Executive.
It also places in this category “some activities related to gas energy as transitional activities, subject to specific conditions that recognize the role that gas can play in helping some regions transition from more polluting solid fossil fuel energy sources. , like coal, to renewable energies”.
In the case of nuclear power, this label will be awarded to projects approved before 2045. Given the construction periods of such infrastructures and their useful life, the new nuclear reactors could be in operation until the end of this century or the beginning of the 22nd century. .
Investments in modifications and improvements to existing nuclear facilities to extend their useful life will also be covered under the green mantle of the taxonomy, as long as they are approved before 2040.
In the case of gas, the EU will consider investments compatible with the new sustainable classification those intended for electricity generation activities in which this fossil fuel is used, provided that emissions are less than 100 grams of CO₂ per kilowatt hour (Kw/ h) or those aimed at projects approved before 2030, with the condition that they do not exceed an emissions threshold of 270 grams of CO₂ per Kw/h.