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Taxonomy: What the EU Parliament's decision means for climate protection

2022-07-06T15:35:20.953Z

The EU Parliament has waved the taxonomy through - also for gas and nuclear power. This decision is not just a gift to Vladimir Putin, it misjudges reality.



Enlarge image

nuclear power and gas?

As of today, these forms of energy production are green according to the EU taxonomy

Photo: iStockphoto / Getty Images

If you're wondering which sustainable projects to put your money into, fret no more - the European Parliament can bring relief to your troubled investor soul.

Invest in gas pipelines!

In natural gas fields and power plants!

Or even in nuclear reactors, if that suits you better.

This Wednesday, the members of parliament in Strasbourg voted on a proposal from the EU Commission, on the so-called taxonomy.

It is about a kind of seal of approval for private investments, with which it is intended to clearly identify which energy projects are green and sustainable and which are not.

The idea behind this scheme is to channel cash flows into activities that bring Europe closer to climate neutrality.

It's about avoiding greenwashing.

And this idea is actually good.

more on the subject

Report on greenwashing at companies: big climate promises and nothing behind them? By Susanne Götze

But: In a draft published by the EU Commission on New Year's Eve, in addition to renewable energies, natural gas and nuclear power were suddenly also described as part of the taxonomy under certain conditions.

That's what France, the grande nation of nuclear power, wanted, and that's what Germany, the great empire of gas heating, originally wanted.

What was actually a good idea turned into the opposite and a sovereign permit for not less, but more greenwashing.

328 of 639 MPs present voted against blocking the taxonomy project in its current form - and voted accordingly with their no

for

the regulation to label investments in gas and nuclear power green.

»A fatal signal« on a »black day«

Shortly after the vote, activists in red T-shirts with a large letter emblazoned on each chest could be seen in the stands during the live broadcast from the EU Parliament in Strasbourg.

The word they formed was a reproach to Parliament: BETRAYAL, treason.

The judgment of environmental protection organizations was also unanimous.

"A fatal signal," said Nabu, "a black day for climate protection and for democracy in Europe," from the federal government.

According to the think tank E3G, greenwashing has “now been officially declared valid by law”.

The development of the past few weeks is likely to have contributed to the disappointment.

In mid-June, the majority of members of the environmental and economic committees spoke out against the inclusion of gas and nuclear power in the taxonomy.

Suddenly it seemed possible that Parliament would turn against the powerful Commission and overturn the project.

How much money does the EU want to transfer to Russia?

One argument that took shape on February 24 and later eclipsed many others was that labeling gas and nuclear power projects as sustainable allows supposedly green investments to flow into the Russian treasury — the treasury currently funding a bloody war becomes.

45 percent of all gas imports into the European Union came from Russia in 2021.

Research by Greenpeace estimated the sales value at more than 40 billion euros.

In addition to gas, Russia also supplies turbines.

In addition, Russia also does business with nuclear reactors.

According to the Greenpeace report, the state-owned company Rosatom has so far exported 18 nuclear reactors to Europe.

The country owns 43 percent of the world's uranium enrichment capacity.

more on the subject

How the Germans made themselves dependent on Russia: we gas junkies

The organization calculated the financial benefit that Putin could derive from the taxonomy regulation as follows: an additional four billion euros annually for gas, plus part of the 500 billion euros that could flow into new EU nuclear power capacities.

Accordingly, representatives of Ukraine expressed their disappointment after the vote in Strasbourg.

»Vladimir Putin is rubbing his hands with joy today.

Europe just gave him a great gift,” said Ukrainian MP Inna Sovsun, a former deputy minister of science.

“I'm in shock.

How on earth can this reconcile with Europe's stance on protecting our planet and supporting Ukraine?” asked IPCC scientist Svitlana Krakovska.

The fact that the taxonomy now opens up an opportunity for Russia to continue financing itself with climate-friendly investment funds is one thing.

The fact that the EU Parliament does not prevent the promotion of new fossil energy projects with this decision is another.

New gas projects are not compatible with climate targets

In order to somehow achieve the climate goals, there must be no investments in new oil and gas projects.

The International Energy Agency formulated it so clearly in its 2021 phased plan for the global energy sector.

The EU is also committed to these climate goals.

A press release from the Commission in February, for example, said it wanted to accelerate the transition "by resorting to all possible solutions to achieve our climate goals".

But one is of the opinion that »private investments in gas and nuclear energy activities have a role to play in the transition.« And that is not a problem either, because: »The gas and nuclear energy activities covered in the legal act are in line with the climate and environmental goals of the EU.

With their help, we can accelerate the transition from more polluting activities like coal-fired power generation to a carbon-neutral future with predominantly renewable energy sources.«

That sounds so great that it can only be wrong.

Unfortunately it is.

Natural gas is not a temporary solution

It is simply not scientifically correct to rate natural gas as decidedly less harmful to the climate than other fossil fuels.

A new specialist article on this was published in the journal "Nature Energy" on Monday with the title "The expansion of the natural gas infrastructure endangers the energy transition".

The climate impact of natural gas use is significantly underestimated, it says.

Gas is by no means a better alternative to coal and oil per se.

»The problem is not only the CO₂, but also the powerful greenhouse gas methane, which escapes unburned into the atmosphere along the entire value chain as fugitive emissions.

So far, these emissions have not been sufficiently taken into account and have been underestimated," explained scientist Fabian Präger from the Technical University of Berlin, who was involved in the publication.

more on the subject

  • More methane: The self-cleaning of the atmosphere is weakening

  • Fighting global warming: The methane problem - and how we can solve itBy Marco Evers

  • Polluters Agriculture and wetlands: Methane emissions are growing at record speed

The narrative of natural gas as an interim solution, as a "bridging technology" until enough wind turbine rotors turn, is misleading.

On the contrary, the expansion of natural gas infrastructure cements dependence on fossil fuels and forms the basis for further harmful emissions in the future.

On the path that you are taking today, you stay for a while.

The conclusion of the researchers: investments in a natural gas infrastructure could halt the energy transition and would entail enormous economic risks.

Economic risks – as a smart investor, as a clever financier, you certainly don’t like reading these two words.

And perhaps it is precisely these economic risks that in reality diminish the importance of the taxonomy, making the EU's mistake less serious.

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you have to do it

Even the Federal Chancellor is now saying that natural gas is not a technology of the future.

And the economic imponderables are even greater when investing in nuclear power.

more on the subject

Nuclear physicists on the French nuclear renaissance: »It's about nationalism, not about climate protection« An interview by Susanne Götze

France, for example, campaigned so vehemently for the inclusion of nuclear energy in the taxonomy because in this decade alone 50 billion euros will have to be spent on maintenance of the sometimes dilapidated reactors.

No private bank in the world is currently financing new nuclear power plants.

With the seal as a sustainable form of energy, the nuclear power industry should become more attractive as an investment object, repository problems or not.

But it is possible that not all private investors want to take advantage of this great, new, green opportunity.

Even before that, it was allowed to put your money into truly sustainable energy projects.

It is no less as of today.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-07-06

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