Members of the European Parliament have formed a cross-party coalition to try to prevent nuclear power and fossil gas from receiving a green investment label under the European Union’s green taxonomy.
The cross-party coalition has objected to a European Commission proposal tabled late last year to include fossil gas and nuclear power in the EU’s list of green investments as sources of energy. transitional energy.
The objection came ahead of the vote in Parliament’s Economy and Environment Committees, which are meeting in joint session on Tuesday (June 14) to decide their position on the proposal.
Regardless of the outcome, the motion will be put to another decisive vote in the July plenary session of parliament, which will decide the matter definitively.
A simple majority – or at least 353 MEPs – is required in plenary to reject the proposal and the vote of the joint committee is considered an exercise.
“For us, of course, it is not acceptable to label gas and nuclear as sustainable and to allow green funds to finance these projects in the future”said Christophe Hansen, a celebrated Luxembourger from the European People’s Party (EPP), the largest political group in the parliament.
Mr Hansen was speaking at a press conference last Wednesday (8 June), alongside colleagues from other political groups, including the centrist Renew Europe party, the Greens, Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the Left (FORD).
“This does not mean that we will not need, in the next few years, gas and nuclear, but we are simply of the opinion that we must not misuse or greenwash with sustainable finance for the TO DO “Mr. Hansen explained.
It is very rare for such a broad spectrum of political groups to oppose a measure “with one voice”said Silvia Modig, of the Left. “I hope this shows you how seriously Parliament takes this effort,” she continued.
The resolution opposes nuclear and gas being qualified as “green”, particularly in light of the war in Ukraine and given the management of the file by the European executive.
Do the math
However, it is not yet certain that the coalition has the necessary votes to block the Commission’s proposal.
“The two votes will be really tight”said Bas Eickhout, a Dutch Green MEP who opposes the inclusion of nuclear and gas in the taxonomy. “The majority is not guaranteed, but I remain confident that we can stop this. [Le vote de] tomorrow will be a good indication for the majorities in plenary”he appointed to EURACTIV.
His colleague Michael Bloss, a German Green MEP, did the math. “We did the math, and it’s almost a tie”he said at an event in Brussels on Monday evening (June 13).
According to his calculations, the Parliament’s Economy and Environment Committees are almost even on the issue, with 67 against 68 deputies who are ready to oppose or suppress the inclusion of gas and nuclear in the taxonomy.
“If we win, I think there will be momentum for the plenary”said Mr. Bloss. “Tomorrow’s vote doesn’t mean much because even if we lose, that same objection will be put to the test anyway. [un nouveau vote durant] the plenary. »
S&D submissive Paul Tang said on June 8 that “more than 80%” of his group is opposed to the inclusion of nuclear and gas in the taxonomy”that “some national delegations did not yet decide” on the issue and that “only the Finnish delegation being in favour” of this inclusion.
According to respondents from these groups, Renew Europe, the EPP and the Left are equally split on the issue.
If the objection is approved, the inclusion of nuclear and fossil gas will still have to be voted on by the full European Parliament in July. If it is rejected, it will be presented again during the plenary vote in July.
Nevertheless, “if it passes, then it’s a clear sign”said Martin Hojsík, a worthy Slovak from the Renew Europe group.
The impact of the war in Ukraine
While groups like S&D and the Greens opposed the inclusion of nuclear power and fossil gas in the taxonomy from the outset, the war in Ukraine has further spurred more of the well-off to oppose it.
“Gas as a transitional fuel is dead”, named Mr Hojsík to EURACTIV, referring to the idea that some had the idea that fossil gas could serve as a transitional fuel to replace coal. That idea, however, has been challenged by the outbreak of the Russian-induced war in Ukraine and concerns over fossil fuel revenues that fund the Kremlin’s war machine.
Her colleague Emma Wiesner meanwhile criticized previous EU policies to reduce dependence on Russian gas after the annexation of Crimea in 2014 since after that, the European Union’s dependence on Russian gas in augmented reality.
“We cannot afford to repeat the same mistake and that is why we must oppose this illegal greenwashing”she expressed to reporters.
The possibility of further supporting Russian gas by granting it a green label has not gone unnoticed in Ukraine.
“[Inclure]gas and nuclear in the EU taxonomy would be a very clear gift to [Vladimir] Putin who allows him to fuel his war machine against the Ukrainians »said Svitlana Romanko, Ukrainian environmental lawyer and campaign coordinator Stand with Ukraine.
“The EU is undermining its own efforts to reduce dependence on Russia and end the war in Ukraine”, she told EURACTIV. She pointed to the fact that the European calls have already voted to ban all Russian energy imports, including gas and nuclear fuels from Russia, and called on the calls to support the objection to this inclusion.
Inna Sovsun, Member of the Ukrainian Parliament, a post on Twitter : “Labelling gas as climate-friendly is a move away from the ecological future and is a gift for Putin to allow him to continue the war”.
An inclusion that would benefit Berlin and Paris
The skepticism surrounding the inclusion of nuclear and fossil gas is also echoed in the financial world. In a public hearing on Monday May 30, Nancy Saich, chief expert on climate change at the European Investment Bank (EIB), explained that investors looking to invest in green projects do not want to invest their money in nuclear and gas.
“We want to use our resources to focus on low-carbon solutions, because the climate crisis is just as urgent as before”she explained.
Since the proposal was tabled, criticism has been leveled that it is a purely political move aimed at satisfying the French nuclear industry and Germany’s gas demand, rather than a decision based on scientific arguments or the wishes of the market.
The taxonomy would have been “tampered with in favor of Germany and France”said Mr. Tang.
“This is private money, necessary for the transition, which goes to the biggest countries, which are perfectly capable of financing the transition, and therefore more and more delegations of the S&D group are realizing that it is not up to the advantage[des délégations nationales]»he concluded.
“This vote is ultimately about whether we are going to turn taxonomy into less of a science-based and market-based instrument and much more of a political tool”Mr. Hojsík said.
Yet, according to experts, nuclear energy can make an important contribution to achieving the European Union’s climate goals.
During the taxonomy debate, Gilles Boyer, a French outspoken from the Renew Europe group, came out in favor of nuclear, saying it was necessary to achieve the Union’s goals of energy independence and phasing out fossil fuels.
“Can we really imagine that we will be able to achieve our objectives without investing more funds in nuclear energy? » did he declare.
He told EURACTIV that the European treaties are clear that each member state can choose the composition of its own energy mix. Some member states have chosen nuclear because of its low carbon emissions and security of supply, he said.
He cited an assessment by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center which found that the full life cycle impact of nuclear energy on humans and the environment is below dangerous levels.
“The gas and nuclear debate, which has been going on for some time, may have become a more mainstream discussion since the start of the war in Ukraine”continued Mr. Boyer.
“I think some people who may not have shown some of the benefits of a reliable zero-emission nuclear power supply have reconsidered. I think many are even more determined for the EU to move away from Russian gas as soon as possible and that need has become even more pressing”he added.
In France, the inclusion of nuclear energy in the taxonomy could be beneficial for its aging nuclear fleet. Indeed, the country currently has more than 56 reactors, many of which are on the verge of reaching or exceeding 40 years of age.
In an October 2020 press release, the French energy company EDF revealed that investments of 49.4 billion euros were needed to maintain reactors that are over 40 years old (programmeLarge Fairing). If nuclear cannot enter the taxonomy, EDF’s survival in its current configuration could be called into question, thus threatening the country’s energy security, according to some observers.
Germany, meanwhile, has taken an ambiguous position on the issue. In its response to Brussels, Berlin first reiterated its opposition to nuclear power while calling on the EU executive to ease restrictions on fossil gas as part of the transition to a low-carbon energy system.
Berlin then said it opposed the inclusion of fossil gas and nuclear power in the EU’s green taxonomy.
[Édité par Frédéric Simon. Paul Messad et Frédéric Simon ont contribué à la rédaction de cet article]