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European Union: the nuclear puzzle in the green taxonomy Subscribers

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It is one of the major political battles of the moment: should nuclear power be included in the taxonomy of the European Union (EU) or not? This new classification sorts economic activities according to their ecological footprint in order to direct investments towards the most environmentally friendly projects.

→ ANALYSIS. Sustainable or not sustainable? Europe is sorting out

This taxonomy is supposed to help the EU achieve climate neutrality by 2050, but for now, while its technical terms are being debated, it is still far from unanimous support.

Pressure on the commission

The European Commission will need to say which activities are “green”, “transitional” or “enabling” (which help other sectors to become more sustainable). It is through a delegated act – the equivalent of an implementing decree in France – that the Commission will have to decide, with long-awaited arbitrations on nuclear and gas.

This text should have been unveiled in the fall, but Financial Services Commissioner Mairead McGuinness recently hinted that it would probably be necessary to wait until 2022. His colleague in charge of energy, Kadri Simson, has for his share mentioned the end of year deadline. In the meantime, all those – France in the lead – who have an opinion on the issue are trying to put pressure on the institution.

Paris at the helm

For Paris as well as for a dozen other capitals, there is no doubt: nuclear power must be included in the taxonomy. The “pro-nuclear” group recalls that this energy emits very little CO2 and therefore cannot be considered responsible for climate change. In addition, betting on nuclear power means guaranteeing the strategic independence of the Old Continent, maintain these States.

At the end of the October European Council, during which the Twenty-Seven had spent a long time discussing the issue (they even wanted to mention taxonomy in their conclusions, before giving it up), Commission President Ursula von der Leyen seemed to reach out to these states, believing that” to the side (renewables such as wind or solar, Editor’s note),we need a stable source of energy: nuclear and, during a transition period, of course, gas ”.

In early October, Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis also defended nuclear power, calling for its role to be recognized “As low carbon energy in our effort” reduction in CO emissions2.

“These are not good signals! If gas and nuclear are included in the taxonomy, this classification will only be a vulgar “greenwashing” tool ”, sighs Silvia Pastorelli, political advisor at Greenpeace Brussels.

The question of waste

Opposite too, the response is being organized: on the sidelines of the COP26 in Glasgow, the environment ministers of Germany, Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg and Portugal co-signed a declaration in favor of a taxonomy without nuclear energy, which they consider incompatible with the principle “DNSH” (for “Do No Significant Harm”), according to which no activity contained in the taxonomy should cause “Significant harm” to the environment.

→ ANALYSIS. COP 26: fossil fuels enter the debate

“This principle makes it possible to take into account the social and environmental effects of an economic activity. For example, in the case of nuclear, how waste is managed, how water contamination is avoided, how the risks of a nuclear accident are taken into account, etc. “, recalls Franziska Schütze of the German Institute for Economic Studies (DIW) in Berlin. The main problem put forward by the “anti-nuclear” is that of the long-term storage of radioactive waste.

Transparency

For MEP Pascal Canfin (Renew Europe), the Commission must now, faced with “Irreconcilable positions”, manage to pave the way for a compromise to possibly “Integrate, under certain conditions, gas only when it replaces coal and nuclear power without jeopardizing the credibility of the taxonomy”.

Chairman of the Environment Committee in Parliament, in order for gas and nuclear power to be included in the classification, he considers that a “Mandatory transparency mechanism, so that an investor who wishes to use the taxonomy without financing nuclear or gas can do so”. And gas and nuclear must not be included in the activities “Green” (alongside renewable energies, therefore), but rather in those helping the transition.

In Glasgow, the French Minister for Ecological Transition Barbara Pompili said ” very comfortable “ with the idea of ​​including “A little gas” in taxonomy.

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RWE puts the turbo in renewable energies

The German energy company RWE announced Monday, November 15 an acceleration of investments in renewable energies. It will devote 50 billion euros to it by 2030. Between 2021 and 2030, the group will spend “On average 5 billion euros each year” in maritime and onshore wind power, solar, storage, gas and hydrogen.

To ensure security of electricity supply, RWE intends to invest in gas-fired power stations in Europe. Privileged target of environmental activists in recent years, due to the vast lignite mines that it operates in North Rhine-Westphalia, the group now claims to be “Well positioned to actively shape the key decade of energy transition”.

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