Nuclear power opponents and environmentalists in the European Parliament could overturn the controversial green EU seal for nuclear power and natural gas at the beginning of July. Because Parliament votes on this controversial part of the so-called taxonomy. It’s the last chance to stop the project.
With this taxonomy, the EU Commission wants to set uniform standards for ecological management. It is intended to steer the hoped-for billions of dollars in financial flows from private investors into clean energy production and climate protection.
This “sustainability bible” has been the subject of debates in Brussels for years. In the end, only one explosive point remained open: the question of whether nuclear power and natural gas are considered green. Many EU countries, above all France, are relying on nuclear power in order to meet the EU’s demanding climate protection requirements in the coming years. Germany, Austria and other countries were strictly against taking up nuclear power.
If a majority of MPs votes against the rules that declare nuclear power as a climate-friendly technology and natural gas as a technology for the transition, the green label for these two technologies would be done for the foreseeable future. The responsible financial market commissioner Mairead McGuiness would then have to have a new so-called delegated legal act formulated.
However, it is questionable whether they would include the same privileges for nuclear power and gas. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen would then risk repeating the debate.
Should the proposal be stopped in Parliament, French President Emmanuel Macron would be the big loser. He is dependent on the billions that would be channeled through the taxonomy in the nuclear industry. Not only that the state holds more than 80 percent of the heavily indebted nuclear power plant operator EDF.
In addition, Macron wants to build a good dozen new nuclear power plants in the coming years. “The deal does not benefit Germany Europe,” says MEP Anna Deparnay-Grunenberg (Greens). “He only benefits France and President Macron.”
However, it is not yet clear whether there will be a majority in Parliament against the rules. “It’s going to be very, very tight,” said Green MP Michael Bloss. “But we have a better feeling now. Parliament must take a stance, otherwise we will get an eco-label for nuclear investment ruins, radiant garbage dumps and climate-damaging gas-fired power plants.”
Bloss and his employees have been campaigning for supporters for a rejection for months. They were even able to get the parliamentarians to vote on Wednesday instead of Thursday as planned during the Strasbourg session.
Many MEPs are already traveling home from Strasbourg on Thursdays and any absence jeopardizes the majority against the Commission proposal: a majority of all MEPs is required, not just those present.
The opponents of nuclear power in parliament have now gained a controversial supporter: last week, Andriy Melnyk, the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, called on all German members of the European Parliament to vote against the green label for gas and nuclear power.
The proposal plays into Russia’s hands, Melnyk warned in a letter. “The terms of the taxonomy clearly favor (…) Russian gas. Gazprom, Rosatom and Lukoil have apparently done appropriate lobbying in Brussels,” says the letter, which is available to WELT.
In fact, two days before Russia invaded Ukraine, Russia’s Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov said the taxonomy for Russia’s energy industry offered “a number of possibilities,” such as producing hydrogen from natural gas. The Commission sent out its proposal on December 31, several weeks before the outbreak of war.
Melnyk’s letter fits almost a little too perfectly into the strategy of the opponents of nuclear power at EU level. Climate NGOs like Greenpeace have long warned that the new rules would help Russia.
Originally, Commission President von der Leyen had hoped that a grand coalition of nuclear and gas friends in Parliament would prevent her proposal from being blocked there. Now, however, many MPs seem suspicious of inviting investors to invest billions in gas-fired power plants. After all, the EU wants to make itself independent of Russian gas as quickly as possible.
CDU environmental politician Peter Liese even warns of a perverse effect of the geopolitically outdated taxonomy proposal in relation to liquefied natural gas (LNG). “If we accept the Delegated Act, investments in LNG terminals and LNG ships would tend to become more expensive because they are not positively assessed by the taxonomy.”
In a first vote in the responsible environmental and finance committees, the MPs rejected the project a few weeks ago. This cleared the way for the entire plenum to vote. There, 354 out of 705 MEPs would have to vote against the proposal to stop it.
At the moment, it is certain that only the Green MEPs in Parliament want to vote against the project as a whole. According to parliamentarians, this also applies to the left-wing parliamentary group.
The two major groups in Parliament are split. In the social democratic S
The Christian Democrat EPP Group could end party voting, a sign of how difficult it is to reconcile the interests of different MEPs. The responsible Commissioner McGuiness was a member of the EPP for a long time Vice-President of Parliament. MEPs say that you are not only trying to get support for the Commission proposal from members of the parliamentary group with a lot of effort.
Influential conservatives like Markus Ferber (CSU) have already taken a stand against McGuinness’ proposal. “The market has no appetite for green standards that classify nuclear energy and gas as sustainable,” says financial politician Ferber. The liberal Renew faction has approved the voting behavior, the German FDP MPs want to abstain.
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