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German government struggles to unite on EU energy proposal

German government struggles to unite on EU energy proposal, DW, 4 Jan 22,

The EU Commission’s proposal to classify nuclear power and natural gas plants as “green” investments has sparked debate in Germany’s new coalition government. Conflict is also brewing between EU states.

Less than a month after Germany’s new coalition government was sworn in, it is facing a major test: To find a united stance in response to a controversial proposal by the EU Commission, published on New Year’s Eve.

The EU Commission wants to label natural gas and nuclear power as climate-friendly, and include investments in both energies on its long-awaited taxonomy list — a green labeling system for investments in the energy sector.

The list is part of the bloc’s plans to decarbonize the European economy and build clean power plants, which will require the investment of billions of euros.

Under the draft proposal, the gas and nuclear plants must meet certain criteria: Investment in new nuclear plants as they are planned in France, the Netherlands, and Poland, can be considered “sustainable” only if respective states ensure they meet the latest technology standards, and provide a concrete plan for the disposal for high-level radioactive waste. 

Natural gas plants could also be granted a green label for a limited period of time, provided certain criteria are met. These could involve limits on the amount of greenhouse gas emitted or proving that the plants can also be operated with green hydrogen or low-carbon gas. 

The classification of economic activities by the EU Commission under the so-called taxonomy is intended to enable investors to switch their investments to more sustainable technologies and companies.

Divided coalition………………

Climate and Economy Minister and Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck, told German press agency dpa that he felt the EU proposal “waters down the good label for sustainability.”

“It’s questionable whether this greenwashing will be accepted by the financial markets anyway,” the Green politician said.

Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) also rated the EU proposal as “questionable.”………….

Klaus Jacob of the Research Center for Environment Policy at Berlin’s Freie Universität says the debate within the government was completely foreseeable.

“This isn’t a predetermined breaking point in the coalition,” Jacob told DW…………………….

Nuclear phaseout nearing completion

The three governing coalition parties are, however, in agreement when it comes to the phaseout of nuclear energy. Germany’s last nuclear power plants are due to be decommissioned just a year from now.

The decision to phase out nuclear power was made during the 1998-2003 coalition between the SPD and Greens under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, in response to the realization that there was no way to store nuclear waste safely. Almost two decades earlier, Germany’s anti-nuclear protests gave birth to the Green Party and the phaseout has long been one of its core policies.

Angela Merkel’s coalition government of center-right Christian Democrats and FDP then rolled back the phaseout. But in 2011, after the accident at the Fukushima atomic power plant in Japan, Merkel made an about-turn and decided to push through with the phaseout after all.

Referring to the EU’s plans to green label nuclear energy, Environment Minister Lemke said the Commission “creates the great danger of blocking and damaging really viable, sustainable investments in favor of dangerous nuclear power.”……………

EU fissure

The 27 EU member states now have until January 12 to comment on the Commission’s draft. But it’s unlikely that the proposal can be blocked. Besides Germany, only Austria, Luxembourg, Denmark, and Portugal have voiced criticism. 

Implementation can only be prevented if at least 20 EU countries (representing at least 65% of the total EU population) or at least 353 members of parliament vote against it.

Other EU countries are continuing to push nuclear energy and campaign for it to be included on the EU’s list of sustainable energy sources eligible for investment — prominently France which holds the rotating EU presidency and is heading for presidential elections in April.

Austria, meanwhile, is threatening to go to the European Court of Justice to stop the draft from being passed.

Edited by Rina Goldenberg

January 4, 2022 - Posted by | climate change, Germany, politics

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