Wednesday 25 May 2022
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European Parliament tries to stop 'green' recognition of nuclear energy

The Environment Committee (ENVI) and the Economic Affairs Committee (ECON) of the European Parliament object to the European Commission's attempt to label nuclear and gas as renewable energy.

In a letter to the European Commission, the chairmen of both MEP committees object to the vague way in which the so-called taxonomy law has been worked out. On the last day of last year, the EU Commissioners for Climate, Energy, Taxation and Economic Affairs announced that nuclear energy and natural gas may be labeled as environmentally friendly under certain conditions.

Chairman Bas Eickhout (GroenLinks) of the Environment Committee believes that the European Parliament should pull the handbrake before the EU commissioners take further steps.

According to Eickhout, the European Commission has prepared the controversial decision after backroom talks with European government leaders. The taxonomy decision establishes which investments can be labeled as 'climate-friendly' and 'sustainable'. No EU subsidy should be paid for investments that do not meet those criteria.

In practice, it will eventually mean an end to government subsidies to nuclear power plants and to power plants that are fired with natural gas. Governments that invest their own money in nuclear power plants could also clash with the European taxonomy.

The two EP committees ask for more time to assess the Commission's plan. They also call for an impact study (into the financial and economic consequences) as is customary for important legislative proposals.

Eickhout says that in addition to the procedural objections, the Commission's intention is also not in line with the political content of the mandate that the groups in the European Parliament gave to the European Commission in 2019. However, it is questionable whether the MEPs of the three largest 'coalition groups' also think so.

“The Commission may only classify economic activities as sustainable if this fits within the limits of the taxonomy law. Instead, the Commission is now misusing this law to implement a political wish of some Member States," the Dutch GroenLinkser said.

According to him, sustainable investments do not benefit from the great legal uncertainty that investors face if nuclear energy and gas are nevertheless labeled as sustainable on a dubious legal basis, it is said.

The plan to classify nuclear energy and gas as sustainable has not yet been approved by the full College of European Commissioners. If the European Commission goes through with the decision, a qualified majority of member states or an absolute majority of the European Parliament can reject the decision.

(update: the previous version of this article incorrectly referred to 'European Parliament hearings')

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