first halt to the project to grant the “green label” to gas and nuclear – Liberation

The deputies of the Envi and Econ committees, related to the environment and the economy, voted against the Commission’s proposal to include gas and nuclear in the taxonomy, which would have allowed them to benefit from aid for ecological transition.

While MEPs have now voted to ban the sale of thermal cars in 2035, there is another (just as delicate) aspect of the famous Green Pact: energy. MEPs from all sides of the Envi (environment, public health and food safety) and Econ (economic and monetary affairs) committees of the European Parliament voted on Tuesday against the Commission’s proposal to include fossil gas and nuclear in the taxonomy European “green label”, which normally aims to better direct the financing of activities contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and thus achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The text was adopted by 76 votes in favor ; 62 deputies voted against and 4 abstained. What to send, before a final vote in Parliament, “a strong signal to the European Commission with the clear refusal to fuel Vladimir Putin’s war machine”, welcomed Greenpeace. “Last week, we refused an indecent climate ambition for the industry sector. This week, we are proceeding in danger with the largest greenwashing operation of the moment”, launched Marie Toussaint, MEP EE-LV.

As a reminder, the European Commission’s proposal notably includes fossil gas and nuclear energy as “transition” energies, i.e. which makes it possible to move from high-carbon electricity production to CO2 neutral in “clear and strict conditions”. Which fixed, “for nuclear activities, that they meet nuclear and environmental safety requirements; and, for gas activities, that they contribute to the abandonment of coal in favor of renewable energy sources”, details the institution of the European Union. By respecting these criteria, gas and nuclear are, in fact, temporarily offered at the same level as wind or solar power, qualified as “green” and “sustainable” energies from an environmental point of view, and can therefore benefit from the public and private money intended for the ecological transition, normally in favor of low-emission mobility or thermal renovation. “In practice, this means that we could therefore file a building permit for nuclear power plants until 2045, points out Neil Makaroff, head of European policies at the Climate Action Network. For gas, power plants that emit less than 270 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour – the most efficient, but which remain very emitting – could benefit from this European green label until 2030. And they will not stop after this date… They will continue to operate because, once built, their lifespan is of the order of twenty or thirty years.

“Macron’s support for the atom”

If the environmental defense associations are therefore pleased with this first victory in committee, which is supposed to set a course and give the hens of the debates to come, it is in Parliament, during a crucial vote in plenary session at the start of the month of July, that everything is going to play out. For the time being, the deputies are very divided on the question. “The European People’s Party has called for a vote against the inclusion of gas and nuclear as Renew [libéraux] is rather pro-nuclear”, assures Neil Makaroff. If the text is again rejected in plenary session, it will be definitively rejected and will not be examined by the Member States as usual, thus giving enormous weight to the Parliament. Conversely, if the European Commission’s proposal is validated by Parliament, the Member States will have to decide. Many, such as Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, Denmark and Austria have risen against the decision to integrate gas or nuclear into the European taxonomy. As for France, it seems to play a double talk. “A COP26, Emmanuel Macron mentioned that we had to get out of fossil fuels. At the same time, he conducted negotiations with several states, including Poland, to integrate gas and nuclear into the European taxonomy. Why ? Because without the support of countries favorable to gas, France would not have been able to obtain the classification of nuclear power as a green label. The Head of State has never made a secret of his support for the atom. The survival of the nuclear industry in France depends on it”, emphasizes Neil Makaroff.

He further adds that “Fossil gas has a climatic cost – it is the first source of greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector in Europe – but also geopolitical and social. It’s time to cut our addiction. As for nuclear power, it poses problems in terms of safety and waste. Knowing that it takes fifteen years to build a power plant, the notion of transitional energy is all the more questionable. To continue to invest in this infrastructure is to derail our European climate trajectory”.

Especially since, under the Green Deal, Europe has undertaken to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 (compared to 1990), which implies reduce its gas consumption by 25% by that date.

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