Germany hits out at European plan to label nuclear and gas ‘green’

On Saturday, the federal government criticized the EU Commission’s plans to include nuclear energy and natural gas in its long-awaited green labeling system for investments in the energy sector.

Economic 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 Vice Chancellor, said Berlin could not support the planned project.

The Commission’s controversial move is part of the so-called “taxonomy” list that will be crucial to channel billions of euros in investment in technology necessary to build cleaner power plants and decarbonize the bloc’s economy.

In a draft delegated act sent to the EU countries on Friday it says: “It is necessary to recognize that the fossil gas and nuclear energy sectors can contribute to the decarbonisation of the Union’s economy.” POLITICO received 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 do “not cause significant damage” to the environment, which includes the safe disposal of nuclear waste. This applies to all “new nuclear facilities for which the building permit is available until 2045”, it says in the text.

Natural gas can also be eligible for the green label for a limited period of time, which makes it easier for natural gas producers to attract private investments – provided certain criteria such as carbon dioxide emissions of 270 g CO2 per kilowatt are met, the text says.

EU countries and the European Parliament now have the opportunity to comment on or make suggestions on the draft delegated act before a final decision is taken – probably earlier this year.

But Habeck told the German Press Agency on Saturday that the Commission proposal “watered down the good label for sustainability”.

He added: “From our point of view, this addition to the taxonomy rules would not have been necessary. We do not see any approval of the new proposals. “

Habeck said it was questionable whether “this greenwashing” would be accepted by the financial markets.

Environment Minister Lemke was even more blunt in her criticism. “I think it is absolutely wrong that the EU Commission wants to include nuclear power in the EU taxonomy for sustainable management,” said Lemke of the Funke media group. She argued that nuclear energy could lead to devastating environmental disasters and leave behind large amounts of dangerous high-level radioactive waste and therefore “cannot be sustainable”.

Countries like France and Poland are strongly pushing for nuclear energy to be included in the taxonomy list as they argue that it is a crucial low-carbon technology needed for energy security during the EU’s move to renewable energy in the decades to come.

In addition to Germany, other countries such as Austria and Luxembourg are vehemently opposed to such a step because of concerns about nuclear accidents and nuclear waste. They would like nuclear energy to disappear from the EU instead of promoting the construction of new plants with the green label.

Proponents of natural gas argue that it is cleaner than coal and should be used as a transition fuel, but opponents argue that it undermines the EU’s green goals.

The opposition from Germany previously delayed the submission of the taxonomy draft, which was originally planned for the beginning of this year.

Particularly problematic is the text of the commission for the German Greens, part of the country’s new government coalition around the Social Democratic Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The Greens have long been opponents of nuclear energy.

“The proposal by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is a step backwards. Your credibility in climate policy has suffered considerable cracks, ”said Rasmus Andresen, a German Green MP.

“Nuclear and fossil gas are not sustainable. There are more realistic and better alternatives to make Europe climate neutral. Von der Leyen’s proposal creates the wrong incentives for investors, ”said Andresen, warning that taxonomy regulation could become an instrument for“ greenwashing ”.

Zia Weise contributed to the reporting. This story has been updated to include and correct the German government’s response to the timeframe in which a final decision on the proposal is expected.

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