Shortly before the countdown to the New Year, EU member states received a draft text from the European Commission, according to several media reports. The proposal is for a green label for nuclear and gas power stations, to facilitate the financing of installations that combat climate change.
“The European Commission’s proposal is, in terms of procedure, a provocation. In terms of content, it carries the risk of ‘greenwashing’ nuclear power,” said Claude Turmes (Déi Gréng) on his Twitter account, pledging to review the draft with environment minister Carole Dieschbourg as well as Germany and Austria, who have been part of the anti-nuclear bloc in the EU.
“The proposal was snuck by the public yesterday evening in a cloak and dagger manoeuvre, which tells you enough about transparency. Does the EU Commission seriously want to motivate citizens to more climate protection in the new year by including nuclear and gas,” Turmes asked in another tweet.
EU countries and experts have two weeks to request changes to the document, with the final text expected to be published in mid-January. The European parliament will then have four months to adopt or reject the text by a simple majority. The European Council could also oppose it if it brings together 20 member states. Austria, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg and Portugal in November had issued a joint declaration during Cop26 for a nuclear-free taxonomy.
The Brussels proposal sets out conditions for classifying investments in power plants as sustainable, with the aim of directing investments towards activities that contribute to combating global warming. Permits for the construction of new nuclear power plants will have to be obtained before 2045 and life extension work before 2040. It requires guarantees on the treatment of waste and the dismantling of installations at the end of their life. The same applies to gas-fired plants, where investments are declared to be sustainable if they emit less than 100g of CO2 per kWh. This threshold is raised to 270 grams for power plants that obtain their construction permit before 31 December 2030.
The debate around including nuclear power in the EU taxonomy had already caused tension at council level on 16 December 2021, when Austria, Luxembourg and Ireland said the inclusion was unthinkable--considering the issue of nuclear waste stocking, for instance--while other states like France, which rely heavily on the energy source, consider that its low carbon footprint would justify its green labelling.
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.