"If fossil gas is only sustainable for a transitional period," asked Stefan Rahmstorf on Twitter earlier this week, "isn't it by definition not sustainable?" The energy market is still the smallest problem.
The idea of labeling gas-fired power plants (and also nuclear reactors) as green under certain criteria is causing criticism.
Why is? On New Year's Eve, officials from the EU Commission sent the draft for a legal act on the so-called taxonomy. This is actually supposed to help convert planned investments to sustainability and thus make a contribution to achieving the climate goals in Europe. By giving the EU a kind of seal of approval for perfectly green investments, investors can orientate themselves more easily and prove more easily that they are investing their money in sustainable projects. This would lead to more money flowing into the energy transition, according to the idea. Because correct, standardized criteria for what is to be classified as "green" have so far been missing in many cases.
It has long been apparent, however, that at least nuclear power could also be ennobled with a green label.
It is now clear: In the future, gas will also be temporarily considered "sustainable" under certain criteria - which not only does not fit together in a purely logical manner, but also sends the wrong signal in terms of climate policy.
An attempt at political wizardry
Making an extremely climate-damaging fossil fuel "green" by simply deciding that it is "green" is an attempt at political magic - but the result is nothing but hocus-pocus.
It is correct: Compared to lignite, burning natural gas produces only about half as much CO₂. Every gas-fired power plant that provides electricity instead of a coal pile is a step in the right direction in terms of climate protection. And because Germany has been idling over the years in expanding renewables and is now getting out of coal and nuclear power at the same time in a relatively short period of time, gas will be needed at least temporarily - and capacities will even have to grow. The Agora Energiewende think tank assumes that electricity generation from gas will increase by more than 60 percent by 2030.
As urgently as they are needed, the investments are by no means »sustainable«. After all, gas-fired power plants still emit considerable amounts of greenhouse gases. According to calculations by the IPCC, emissions are around 490 tonnes of CO₂ equivalents per gigawatt hour of electricity generated. The balance becomes even more fatal if leaks in the gas infrastructure are factored in. One of the main components of natural gas is methane, which in the short term has a greenhouse effect 82 times that of CO₂. How much natural gas escapes unused into the atmosphere from the system is unknown. However, a five percent leak could easily double the climate impact of natural gas, estimates Volker Quaschning, Professor of Renewable Energy Systems at the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin.
And that methane emissions, which are also caused by gas extraction, represent a significant problem for the climate, not just in theory, as new data published a few days ago by the American NOAA show: The concentration of CH4 in the atmosphere has reached its highest level since 1980.
In view of this balance sheet, the type of criticism of the new EU proposals on the part of the German Greens is all the more surprising.
In the past few days, prominent representatives of the party also shot their criticism of the sustainability labeling for nuclear power.
As critical as one can view the technology, it is not the problem in overcoming the climate crisis, it actually helps.
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The topics of the week
Debate about the energy transition: How sustainable are gas-fired power plants really?
The EU wants to classify gas-fired power plants as sustainable in its energy taxonomy, as does nuclear power.
Climate activists protest vigorously.
But Germany will still thank you.
Energy crisis: Germany is so dependent on Russian gas
The transition to a CO₂-free future without coal-fired power plants can only be achieved with the help of natural gas.
Does the energy transition make the federal government open to blackmail?
Dispute over energy: How the EU wants to make nuclear power and gas green
The EU Commission's plan to classify nuclear and gas-fired power plants as climate-friendly is causing a stir in Germany.
But the federal government will hardly be able to change anything in the project - for several reasons.
Legal opinion from Austria: Is nuclear power incompatible with the EU environmental goals?
Nuclear energy is not an ecologically sustainable investment, according to a report commissioned by the Austrian climate protection ministry.
It provides arguments for the proposed lawsuit against the EU taxonomy.
Journalism in the climate crisis: the opposite of activism
Floods, fires, storms - can there even be too much reporting on the climate crisis?
Instead of more and more disaster journalism, we sometimes just need a different perspective.
Secret climate killer bog: How Mr. Kück tries to save his home - and the climate
53 million tons of greenhouse gases, every year: The bogs that farmers use for animal husbandry or vegetable cultivation have a poor ecological balance.
One thing is clear: emissions have to be reduced.
Bumpy start of the Greens: When do the first scream betrayal?
After a month in government, the Greens are in a bad position: They gambled away on the presidential question and have to accept that nuclear power is green for the EU.
The base is outraged.
First annual economic report: Habeck ends the dream of eternal growth
For decades, the economics ministers proclaimed the blessing of incessant growth and prosperity at the end of January.
The first Green in office initiates a U-turn.
Climate protection: The contradicting attitudes of Germans
The stress, no time, the rain - we find good reasons not to do what we think is right.
But we are going one step further when it comes to climate protection.
About a strange form of self-deception.
Less CO₂ in production: How the steel industry wants to become climate-friendly
Steel production emits much more carbon dioxide than car traffic.
Researchers are working on plasma reactors that will replace blast furnaces with ecological hydrogen.
What consumers have to be prepared for.
Your Kurt Stukenberg
Your Kurt Stukenberg