EU Labels Gas and Nuclear "Green"

EU Labels Gas and Nuclear as Green

Following a vote by the European parliament, gas and nuclear energy can be classified as "green.” This decision means -- with some loose caveats -- that certain gas and nuclear projects can receive the same funding as renewables. The only way to reverse course would be for a majority of EU member states or parliament members to vote against the measure. However, members of parliament tried and failed to overturn the vote on Wednesday.

DW: EU Parliament votes on 'green' gas and nuclear rules, July 6, 2022.

Reuters: EU votes to tag gas, nuclear investment 'green,' July 6, 2022.

Why This Matters

Labeling gas as green solidifies a climate backslide from the EU that puts its climate goals at stake. The fossil fuel got a boost prior to the invasion of Ukraine when the European Commission proposed calling gas, which still gives off carbon dioxide and methane emissions, "green.” Europeans promoted gas as a cleaner way to switch from coal and other dirtier fuels during a transition period, but critics argue that incentivizing new gas infrastructure now will become an excuse to remain dependent on gas beyond this decade, lest the infrastructure becomes a "stranded asset.” Environmentalists argued that Europe should try to leapfrog gas and move on to other, renewable forms of energy.

The embrace of nuclear energy also marks a shift. Nuclear energy is carbon-free, but some European countries -- especially Germany -- had very publicly moved to abandon nuclear in recent years given worries about waste disposal.

Third Way: Why We Need To Save Our Nuclear Power Plants, February 3, 2022.

The impact of cuts to Russian fuel supply has sent countries scrambling to the extent they’re back to burning coal and working to beef up gas infrastructure. This decision is especially troubling given that in order to hit climate targets in 2050 and reduce the impacts of the climate crisis, it’s critical to make an energy transition that eliminates fossil fuels in this decade.

FRANCE 24: Return to coal? Austria to reopen power station amid fears of Russian gas shortage, June 28, 2022.

Reuters: World could see 1.5C of warming in next five years, May 10, 2022.

IEA: A 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use, March 18, 2022.

What’s Next

There’s legal action ahead, with NGOs like WWF stating they plan to "explore all potential avenues for further action to stop this greenwashing and protect the credibility of the whole EU taxonomy.” At the country level, anti-nuclear Austria and Luxembourg said they plan to take the commission to the European court of justice. But legal action will likely take years, while funds will be flowing to projects under the recently approved scheme.

Euronews: UN Secretary-General says the climate crisis is placing half of humanity in 'the danger zone,' June 14, 2022.

TED: How to Realistically Decarbonize the Oil and Gas Industry | Bjørn Sverdrup, March 3, 2022.

Bloomberg: EU's Breton | No Green Transition Without Nuclear Energy, December 17, 2022.