The European Commission announced that consultations have begun on the inclusion of gas and nuclear energy as green investment areas under the EU Taxonomy classification system.
The EU Taxonomy is part of the EU Action Plan on Sustainable Finance, established by the EU Technical Expert Group on Sustainable Finance’s (EU TEG). The taxonomy is a classification system enabling the categorization of economic activities that play key roles in contributing to at least one of six* defined environmental objectives and no significant harm done to the other objectives.
The consultation follows the approval in December of the EU Taxonomy Climate Delegated Act, making the regulation effective as of the beginning of this year, starting with the first two objectives, climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation. While the regulation has now officially launched, however, the assessment of gas and nuclear energy as eligible areas for green investment is still ongoing.
According to the Commission, a text of a Taxonomy Complementary Delegated Act covering certain gas and nuclear activities has been drafted, with consultations now ongoing with the Member States Expert Group on Sustainable Finance and the Platform on Sustainable Finance.
While gas and nuclear energy are often viewed as transition energy sources that will be required to facilitate the shift from fossil-based power to a greener energy system, several sustainability-focused groups have warned that their inclusion in the taxonomy could undermine the classification system’s purpose and open it up to concerns of greenwashing.
The proposal to include nuclear and gas in the EU Taxonomy also looks likely to meet resistance from some member states. Following the European Commission’s announcement, Germany’s new Environment Minister Steffi Lemke said on Twitter:
“I think the intention of the EU Commission to include nuclear power in the EU Taxonomy for sustainable economic activities is absolutely wrong.”
In a statement announcing the consultations, the Commission said that it “considers there is a role for natural gas and nuclear as a means to facilitate the transition towards a predominantly renewable-based future,” and that these energy sources would be classified under tight and clear conditions, such as requiring gas to come from renewable sources or have low emissions by 2035.
The Commission aims to formally adopt the text following consultations this month, with the act potentially entering into force mid-year if approved by the European Council and Parilament.
*The six objectives include under the EU Taxonomy are climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources, transition to a circular economy, pollution prevention and control, and protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems.