The German government on Saturday criticized the European Commission’s plans to include nuclear energy and natural gas in its long-awaited green labeling system for investment in the energy sector.
Economy and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck and Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, both from the Greens, sharply criticized the Commission’s initiative, and Habeck – who is also German Chancellor – said Berlin could not support the proposed scheme.
The Commission’s controversial push is part of the so-called “taxonomy” list, which will be crucial in channeling billions of euros into investment in technologies needed to build clean power plants and decarbonise the bloc’s economy.
A draft delegated act sent to EU countries on Friday said “it is necessary to recognize that the fossil gas and nuclear energy sector can contribute to the decarbonisation of the EU economy.” POLITICO achieved a copy of the draft text.
The draft taxonomy states that nuclear power plants should be considered “sustainable” if the host country can ensure that they have “no significant damage” to the environment, which includes the safe disposal of nuclear waste. This applies to all “new nuclear facilities for which a building permit has been granted in 2045,” the text states.
Natural gas may also be eligible for the green label for a limited period of time, making it easier for natural gas producers to attract private investment – provided that certain criteria such as a carbon dioxide emission level of 270 g CO2 per hectare. generated kilowatts are met, the text says.
EU countries and the European Parliament now have the opportunity to weigh in on the draft delegated act with comments or proposals before a final decision is taken – probably at the beginning of this year.
But Habeck told the German news agency dpa on Saturday that the commission’s proposal “dilutes the good mark of sustainability.”
He added: “From our point of view, it would not have needed this addition to the taxonomy rules. We do not see an approval of the new proposals.”
Habeck said it was doubtful whether “this greenwash” would be accepted by the financial markets.
Minister of the Environment Lemke was even more blunt in his criticism. “I think it is completely wrong that the European Commission intends to include nuclear power in the EU taxonomy for sustainable economic activities,” Lemke told media group Funke. She argued that nuclear energy could lead to devastating environmental disasters and leave large amounts of hazardous high-level radioactive waste and therefore “can not be sustainable.”
Countries such as France and Poland have been pushing hard to include nuclear energy on the taxonomy list, arguing that it is a crucial low-carbon technology needed to provide energy security as the EU moves to renewable energy in the coming decades.
In addition to Germany, other countries such as Austria or Luxembourg are fiercely opposed to such a move due to concerns about nuclear accidents and waste. They would like nuclear energy to disappear from the EU instead of encouraging the construction of new plants through the green label.
Proponents of natural gas argue that it is cleaner than coal and should be used as a transitional fuel, but opponents feel it undermines the EU’s green goals.
Opposition from Germany has earlier delayed the presentation of the draft taxonomy, which was originally planned for earlier this year.
The Commission’s text is particularly problematic for the German Greens, part of the country’s new governing coalition led by Social Democrat Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The Greens are longtime opponents of nuclear energy.
“Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s proposal is a step backwards. Her credibility in climate policy has suffered significant cracks,” said Rasmus Andresen, a German Green MEP.
“Nuclear and fossil gas are not sustainable. There are more realistic and better alternatives to make Europe climate neutral. Von der Leyen’s proposal puts the wrong incentives for investors,” Andresen said, warning that taxonomy regulation risks becoming a tool for “greenwashing”. . “
Zia Weise contributed reporting. This story has been updated to include the German Government’s response to and correction of the timeframe within which a final decision on the proposal is expected.