EU's new green classifications of natural gas and nuclear
The controversy which ignites collision in Europe.
Tricastin, France nuclear power station
The European Union has been planning on labeling a few natural gas and nuclear energy projects as “green” investments following a year-long battle between governments over which investments are truly climate-friendly. In January, the European Commission is expected to propose rules deciding whether gas and nuclear projects will be included in the EU “sustainable finance taxonomy.” Indeed, such a classification is legitimised for gas and nuclear power generation based on the grounds that they are “transitional activities.” In other words, although they are considered as a necessary policy to bridging the gap between fossil fuels and renewable energies, they do not assume zero carbon emissions. atural gas, it only emits around half the CO2 emissions of coal when burned in power plants, whilst nuclear energy has minimal carbon footprint similar to that of solar and wind energy. Moreover, through the “green” label, the system aims to make those investments more attractive to private capital, thereby terminating “greenwashing” where companies and investors exaggerate their eco-friendly credentials. Nevertheless, much controversy still exists within Europe over the new classifications and we can observe the stances of several European countries below.
Indeed, France considers itself as a pro-nuclear country with over 70% of its power derived from home-generated nuclear power. The French president argues it is a cheap, low carbon and stable energy, which is precious in these times of fight against global warming and soaring energy prices. For France, which is preparing to renew its nuclear fleet, this is a strategic issue. On Germany’s part,they do support the labeling of some gas energy projects as “green” investments but emphasise their opposition towards the same rule being implemented for nuclear power projects. Accordingly, Germany has just withdrawn three of their remaining six nuclear power stations, aiming for complete withdrawal by the end of 2022. It was indeed Japan’s Fukushima reactor meltdown in 2011 that alarmed Germany on the danger of leaks of methane or the environmental impact of radioactive waste disposal. They aim to make a secure, climate friendly and reliable supply of electricity meeting 80% of power demand by 2030 through the expansion of wind and solar power infrastructure. Brussels must thus acknowledge the member states, starting with Eastern European countries like Hungary or Poland, which are counting on gas to close their coal-fired power plants, while at the same time wanting to grow a Europe that is less dependent on Russian gas. Simultaneously, they are pushing for a taxonomy that would not be too restrictive with gas.
Ariel Cohen, “Germany and France Clash over EU’s new “Green” Classification for Nuclear Energy and Natural Gas”. Forbes, January 4 2022.
Andreas Rinke, “Germany Welcomes EU’s ‘Green’ Energy plan gas, still opposes nuclear”. Reuters, January 2 2022.
Kate Abnett and Simon Jessop, “EU drafts plans to label gas and nuclear investments as green”. Reuters, January 1st 2022.
Emma Thomasson, “Germany shuts three of its last six nuclear plants”. Reuters, January 1 2022.
“3 reasons why Nuclear is Clean and Sustainable”, Department of Energy, March 31st 2021
Virginie Malingre, “La Commission européenne s’apprête à classer le nucléaire comme énergie verte”. Le Monde, 28 Décembre 2021