Germany, Austria and Luxembourg have hit out at Brussels’ plans to classify nuclear power as a sustainable technology in the EU’s landmark labelling system for green investment, which is central to Europe’s plans to decarbonise the bloc’s economy.

German economy minister Robert Habeck, who is a member of the Green party in the country’s governing coalition, said: “It is questionable whether this greenwashing will even find acceptance on the financial market.” He told German press agency DPA on Saturday: “In our view, there was no need for this addition to the taxonomy rules.”

Brussels’ proposal is part of a so-called “taxonomy” list, which aims to help channel billions of euros of investment needed to decarbonise the bloc’s economy.

The plan, the first attempt by a leading regulator to bring clarity to investors seeking to put private capital into sustainable economic activity, covers about 80 per cent of the bloc’s emissions and is intended to be a “gold standard” for markets to decide what is truly green or not.

But the process has been beset by fierce political infighting inside the European Commission and its member states.

Leonore Gewessler, Austria’s minister for climate and energy, said on Saturday that Vienna would consider suing the European Commission if the classification of nuclear power as green went ahead. Claude Turmes, Luxembourg’s energy minister, meanwhile called the inclusion of nuclear power a “provocation”. 

The inclusion of nuclear power is widely seen as a victory for the French government which has urged Brussels to ensure the new rules do not punish a technology that provides almost two-thirds of French electricity. Nuclear reactors do not generate CO2 emissions but produce highly toxic waste.

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The inclusion of natural gas also means a number of EU economies that rely on gas imports in southern and eastern Europe will back the initiative.

The inclusion of gas is also supported by Germany’s finance minister, Christian Lindner, who is the leader of the Liberal party in the governing coalition. The draft proposal says gas can be considered sustainable under certain conditions, such as for new gas plants approved before the end of 2030 that emit less than 270g of CO2 per kilowatt hour and if replacing traditional fossil fuels such as coal.

“Germany realistically needs modern gas-fired power plants as a transitional technology because we are giving up coal and nuclear power,” Lindner told the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Sunday. “I am grateful that arguments seem to have been taken up by the commission.”

Three German nuclear plants went offline at the end of 2021, with the country’s remaining three facilities due to be decommissioned in a year as part of a commitment to phase out all nuclear energy following the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan.

The Brussels draft text will form part of a consultation with EU countries and independent experts that will run until January 12. However, anti-nuclear EU governments do not have the power to veto the taxonomy, which diplomats say is likely to win majority support in the EU Council.

Astrid Matthey, one of the independent experts who advises the commission on the rules, criticised the draft for “contradicting the very purpose of the taxonomy”.

“The conditions under which both technologies are to be included are far from ensuring that we reach the Paris climate targets and do-no-significant-harm to the environment. There is still a long way to go for this draft to become aligned with the Green Deal and the EU’s environmental targets”, said Matthey.

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Source: This post first appeared on Duk News

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