EU: natural gas and nuclear power now green

The EU Commission has presented its new taxonomy for sustainable investments. As expected, natural gas and nuclear power will be considered green energies as of 2023, subject to certain conditions. Austria and Luxembourg have announced that they are ready to go to court over the decision and other EU states also openly oppose the move. A majority in the EU Parliament or a veto by at least 20 member states could still overturn the decision. Europe's press is divided.

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Kleine Zeitung (AT) /

Label fraud like in the Middle Ages

The EU Commission is acting in a cowardly and mendacious fashion, writes the Kleine Zeitung:

“Sun, wind and water cannot (yet) replace nuclear energy. Too cowardly to call a spade a spade, the EU Commission is simply greenwashing nuclear power. Such fraudulent labelling may outrage many. ... The fact is, however, that the much needed fight against man-made global warming has long since taken on the form of a substitute religion spurred on by apocalyptic thinking. ... Afraid of being accused of heresy - and wanting to avoid restricting the lifestyle of Europeans - the Commission is engaging in a similar practice to that of monasteries in the Middle Ages. Back then, to circumvent the ban on meat during Lent the monks declared beavers, ducks and otters to be fish whose consumption was permitted.”

Novaya Gazeta (RU) /

New perspectives for Russia's energy sector

Novaya Gazeta examines how Russia could benefit from the EU's new policy:

“Sure, the idea is not to encourage investment in Russian companies and their projects. But Gazprom, Novatek and Rosneft can now - regardless of the active phase of the energy transition - make investment plans aimed at maintaining long-term demand from Europe. ... The same applies to nuclear energy: for political reasons Rosatom will find it difficult to obtain new orders for the construction [of nuclear power plants]. ... But in countries like Hungary or Bulgaria it has good chances. Moreover, Rosatom can offer much sought-after services involving the reprocessing of spent fuel rods from European power plants as well as supplying fresh fuel.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Invest money in future-oriented technologies

The inclusion of nuclear energy and gas in the EU's green taxonomy sends the wrong signal, Deutschlandfunk criticises:

“Investments in a sustainable future are put on an equal footing with those in outdated technologies. ... In the next few years, Europe needs billions in investments in wind turbines, solar plants, power lines and energy storage. This is where the money must go; we have more than enough stop-gap technologies. A taxonomy that sets money aside for such purposes and clearly distinguishes sustainable from non-sustainable projects could help mobilise such investments. With today's decision - foreseeable as it was - the European Union has missed an opportunity.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Keep Germany in check

For those in favour of nuclear power the timing is favourable indeed, Rzeczpospolita points out:

“Nuclear power is not likely to be included in a future expanded taxonomy. Not because of its emissions, which are zero, but due to the environmental risks associated with nuclear waste. Because for the criteria of the taxonomy it's not only carbon emissions that matter, but also not damaging other climate targets. There is no better time than now to declare nuclear power a sustainable energy, because by simultaneously recognising natural gas, the current situation allows the strongest opponent of nuclear power, namely Germany, to be kept in check.”

Les Echos (FR) /

Acid test for the Franco-German tandem

Once again, the differences between Germany and France are coming to the fore, Les Echos comments:

“Now it is a certainty: not only will the energy issue be of central importance for Europe in the coming years, it will also put a lasting strain on Franco-German relations. Everyone was aware that the transition to less carbon-intensive energy sources would be expensive and complicated - especially when an entire continent depends on Russian gas supplies to cover more than 40 percent of its energy requirements. What was less to be expected was that this issue would be an acid test for the famous Franco-German tandem, and that this is likely to continue for a long time to come. The divergent paths taken by Paris and Berlin on the energy transition are a constant source of tension.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Green technologies' pioneering role at risk

With some EU member states rejecting a green label for investments in nuclear energy and natural gas taxonomy is becoming a divisive issue, La Repubblica fears:

“With a number of votes against, the Commission is at risk of finding itself on the verge of a nervous breakdown. ... The argumentation is as clear as day: the targets of the Green Deal will be jeopardised. The EU loses the advantage it had gained in terms of green investments. And with nuclear energy it is pursuing an outdated vision. ... Portuguese Commissioner Sónia Pereira's group also points out that the EU is in danger of losing its leadership role in this area and undermining its credibility just to please someone. That this someone is France is obvious.”