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President of the European Commission to have the final say on whether Europe considers nuclear power to be ”clean” and ”green”?

Gas and nuclear: Fate of EU green taxonomy ‘now in the hands of von der Leyen’ By Frédéric Simon and Kira Taylor | EURACTIV.com, 10 Dec 2021

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has taken charge of a soon-to-be-published list of sustainable investments amid controversy around the possible classification of fossil gas and nuclear energy as “green” or “transitional” activities under certain conditions, according to several sources familiar with the process.

The European Union is moving closer to integrating nuclear power and natural gas into the bloc’s sustainable finance taxonomy – a set of rules designed to provide investors with a common definition of what is green and what is not in order to channel more capital into sustainable businesses.

The list of activities that Europe considers “green” or “transitional” investments will be laid down in a so-called ‘delegated act’ adopted by the European Commission setting out detailed implementing rules under the EU’s sustainable finance taxonomy regulation, adopted in December 2019.

But after several failed attempts and mounting controversy over the role of gas and nuclear power in the energy transition, President von der Leyen has now taken matters into her own hands, several sources told EURACTIV………

On Wednesday evening, the EU passed the first part of its taxonomy rulebook, setting out environmental criteria for investments including renewable energy, shipping and car manufacturing that will apply as of January 2022.

But no decision has been taken yet on the most politically sensitive part of the taxonomy, dealing with gas and nuclear investments………….   Contacted by EURACTIV, the European Commission did not confirm whether von der Leyen had taken charge. Most likely, the proposal will be presented to the College of Commissioners by Mairead McGuinness, the EU financial services commissioner, and Valdis Dombrovskis, the vice-president in charge of the economy, a spokesperson said.

Given internal procedures, a final proposal should be ready by Friday before it is submitted to the college for approval next week, according to an EU source.

Europe divided

European countries are deeply divided on the subject. While France is leading a group of twelve countries supporting the inclusion of nuclear energy in the taxonomy, five other EU countries expressed their opposition to the move, with Austria even warning it was ready to challenge the decision before the EU court of justice.

Central and eastern European countries are also pushing to include fossil gas as a “transitional” activity in the taxonomy, arguing that gas is needed as a stepping stone for them to exit coal, the most polluting of all fossil fuels.

But the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), a network of international investors, has advised the EU against allowing these energy sources a sustainable label.

The inclusion of gas-fired power “would seriously compromise” the taxonomy’s role as an independent and scientific tool in line with Europe’s climate goals, PRI warned in a briefing note.

And while a report from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) looked favourably at the inclusion of nuclear, it did “not sufficiently [address] risks related to the storage of nuclear waste, severe incidents and nuclear proliferation,” UNEP said.

The UN-supported initiative recommends that Europe explores alternatives, either by developing a proposal for sectors involved with the energy transition or extending the taxonomy “to recognise intermediate economic activities and transition pathways such as gas-fired power that operates below the ‘significant harm’ threshold of 270g CO2/kWh”………

Technology neutral

In the end, it looks increasingly likely that both gas and nuclear will be included in the list of sustainable investments as transitional fuels………….

For nuclear, however, the choice to call it transitional is still subject to controversy, with supporters arguing it should labelled “sustainable” because of its low-carbon [?]nature………..

Nuclear split in three categories

According to the EU’s energy commissioner Kadri Simson, the proposal “will be ready in the coming weeks…and it will clarify whether or not nuclear energy generation, waste disposal or fuel supply can be classified as sustainable activities for investors.”

Simson’s comments suggest that the upcoming delegated act could split nuclear activities into three categories: fuel supply, energy generation and waste.

….  the management of radioactive waste and the possibility of a nuclear incident remains a cause of concern for the United Nation’s PRI, which says these were not sufficiently explored in the JRC report.

“The materialisation of the risks above could seriously harm most – if not all – of the five environmental objectives other than climate mitigation that are part of the EU Taxonomy Regulation,” the PRI said in its briefing note.

…….. There is still no confirmed date for the publication of the taxonomy’s delegated act, but the European Commission says it will be published before the end of the year. Some expect it to be published alongside the gas package on 14 December while others are talking about it coming out on 22 December.  https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/gas-and-nuclear-fate-of-eu-green-taxonomy-now-in-the-hands-of-von-der-leyen/

December 12, 2021 - Posted by | climate change, EUROPE

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