MEPs threaten the “green” label for gas and nuclear

MEPs threaten the “green” label for gas and nuclear

MEPs will try today (6 July) to oppose their vote to the European Union’s (EU) “green” label project for gas and nuclear, two energy sources considered by Brussels as necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The controversial text, presented in January 2022 by the Commission, classifies as “sustainable” certain investments for the production of electricity in nuclear or gas power plants, provided that they mobilize the most advanced technologies.

And, for the latter, that they make it possible to close much more polluting coal-fired power stations.

This classification (known as a taxonomy) should help mobilize private funds for these projects. It is part of the EU’s objective of carbon neutrality in 2050.

But the recognition of the contribution of gas and nuclear power to the fight against climate change, although made on the basis of expert reports, angered environmental organizations who denounced a “greenwashing” operation.

Until now, the “green” label was reserved for renewable energies.

As of Tuesday (July 5), organizations for the defense of the environment demonstrated in Strasbourg. Some 150 people marched towards the seat of the European Parliament, before a debate in plenary session. “Nuclear will not save the climate”could we read on a banner.

In the hemicycle, the anti-gas also gave voice. Especially since the news of the war in Ukraine, which has highlighted the danger of dependence on Russian hydrocarbons, has reinforced the hostility of certain elected officials.

“There is nothing sustainable in fossil fuels”said Swedish MEP Emma Wiesner (Renew group, liberal). “Let us listen to the generations of today and tomorrow: let us reject this proposal. We owe them at least that. We are responsible for what we bequeath to them! » said Frenchman Damien Carême (Greens).

The vote, scheduled for Wednesday around noon (10:00 GMT), promises to be tight. The result is all the more uncertain as the subject divides even within political families.

A slap in the face to the Commission?

MEPs will have to say whether or not they approve of an objection, adopted on June 14 by the Economic Affairs and Environment parliamentary committees, synonymous with a veto against the text of the European executive. Such a rare rejection would be a slap in the face for the European Commission.

Members of the radical left, the social democrats and the greens should approve by a very large majority the objection to the “green” label granted to gas and nuclear. The liberals, the right and the far right should overwhelmingly reject it.

An absolute majority of 353 votes is required to block the Commission’s text.

“No one is saying that gas and nuclear are green energies, but they are temporarily essential for the transition. We must use all the tools to do away with oil and coal as a priority”argued French MEP Gilles Boyer (Renew).

EU taxonomy “prioritizes renewables and energy efficiency”recalled Financial Services Commissioner Mairead McGuinness, who came to defend her text in Strasbourg.

But the EU executive believes that renewable energies alone will not be able to meet the growing demand for electricity due to their intermittent production. Hence the need, at least on a transitional basis, to also promote investment in stable and controllable resources such as gas and nuclear.

The “green” label for these two energy sources has already received the approval of the Member States. Only eight countries, including Germany, Austria and Luxembourg, expressed their opposition, during consultations led by the French Presidency of the Council of the EU, far from the “super-majority” of twenty countries necessary to block the project.

France, which wants to revive its nuclear sector, and central European countries such as Poland, which must replace their coal-fired power stations, are on the other hand behind the Commission.

A rejection by MEPs would risk definitively sinking the initiative, according to several experts on the matter. The Commission would then have to decide whether or not to present a modified text.

In the event of a green light from Parliament, opponents have already announced an appeal to European justice.


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