Brussels proposes green label for nuclear and natural gas

Brussels wants to recognize nuclear energy and natural gas as “green” operations as part of the EU landmark classification scheme to help financial markets decide what is considered a sustainable investment.

In its long-awaited plans, the European Commission has paved the way for investment in new nuclear power plants for at least the next two decades and natural gas for at least a decade. a green labeling system called “taxonomy for sustainable finance”.

The labeling system, which will cover industries that generate around 80 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the EU, is the first attempt by a major global regulator to decide what is an economic activity. truly sustainable and helps to eliminate the so-called green wash in the financial sector.

A draft of the legal text, seen by the Financial Times, says that the EU green label should be given to controversial energy sources including nuclear power and natural gas under certain circumstances.

The decision came after a group of pro-nuclear nations, led by France and pro-gas governments in Southern and Eastern Europe, demanded that the classification system should not punish nuclear weapons. energy source that provides the majority of their electricity production.

Nuclear power does not emit greenhouse gases but produces toxic waste that needs to be handled safely and may present a radiation risk. Natural gas produces carbon dioxide but its advocates say it is much less polluting than traditional fossil fuels and is an important way to help pave the way for lower emissions.

Brussels was forced to delay a decision on how to classify the two energy sources earlier this year after arguments within the university’s commissioner over whether they should be given a green label. The battle to recognize nuclear power and natural gas as green has intensified in recent months as EU countries face record electricity prices this winter, driven by increased demand for natural gas imports. high.

The draft classification document states that nuclear power should be considered a sustainable economic activity as long as EU countries have power plants that can safely dispose of hazardous waste and meet the criteria ” not cause significant harm” to the environment. The document says the construction of new nuclear plants will be recognized as green for permits issued until 2045.

Natural gas investment is also green-labelled as a “transitional” energy, but must meet a more detailed set of conditions, including generating less than 270g CO2/kilowatt and if it changes replace traditional fossil fuels such as coal production.

The EU imports about three-quarters of its natural gas needs, most of which is supplied by Russia. The bloc’s energy crisis has sparked criticism from some member states that Moscow is artificially raising gas prices and that the EU should speed up gas imports to renewables.

The text of the classification would need the approval of a majority of EU member states and members of the European Parliament. EU diplomats say the text is likely to receive broad support from governments, but the green classification for gas and nuclear has been criticized by environmental groups.

France’s EU Commissioner Thierry Breton said he was in favor of labeling both technologies as green because it would help the EU meet its goal of cutting CO2 emissions to net zero by 2050, compared with 1990 levels. .

“Gas is not the best to achieve our goal because you generate some CO2 but at least it is a better transition than coal,” Breton told reporters last month. “We need to have the right funding in taxonomy, including nuclear energy.”

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