POLL: Should gas be considered ‘green’ as EU locks horns over VDL’s controversial plot?

Ursula von der Leyen says young people give her confidence

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EU countries have been arguing about which energy sources should be included in the bloc’s “Green taxonomy” for three years, so President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has decided to take matters into her own hands. The bloc’s sustainable finance taxonomy aims to produce a set of rules that provide investors with a common definition of what is green and what is not, to channel more capital into sustainable businesses.

Many countries have argued nuclear and gas should be included in the taxonomy as ‘transitional fuels’ to ease the switch to green power, and to ensure the most damaging coal-burning power plants are eradicated quickly.

On the other hand, several countries including Luxembourg and Denmark, argue that nuclear and gas cannot be included in a list of green energy sources because of their damaging effects on the environment.

Austria has even threatened to challenge the decision to include nuclear and gas in the taxonomy before the European Court of Justice.


The United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) advised the EU against giving these energy sources a sustainable label and said the inclusion of gas-fired power “would seriously compromise” the taxonomy’s role as an independent and scientific tool in line with Europe’s climate goals.

But in 2019, France, the UK and eastern European countries threatened to veto the EU taxonomy because nuclear energy was not explicitly included as a green investment.

Britain and France warned that Europe’s reliance on Russia’s gas supply would only increase if nuclear energy was phased out.

Following the UK’s departure from the EU in 2020, it became clear that nuclear no longer had majority support in the Council.

Brexit meant the balance shifted toward anti-nuclear countries, of which Germany is the most significant – a country which eradicated its own nuclear plants a decade ago.

In 2020, a group of ten pro-gas countries, mostly from the east and south, also threatened to veto because the taxonomy did not include natural gas as a transition fuel.

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But now the issue lies with Ms von der Leyen, who appears to be backing the inclusion of both nuclear and gas in the new taxonomy to appease major powers.

And she has spelt out her point of view clearly in a statement on rising fuel costs in Europe.

She said: “We need more renewables. They are cheaper, carbon-free and homegrown.

“We also need a stable source, nuclear, and during the transition, gas.

“This is why we will come forward with our taxonomy proposal.”

On Wednesday evening, the EU passed the first part of its taxonomy rulebook, setting out environmental criteria for investments including renewable energy, shipping and car manufacturing that will apply as of January 2022.

But no decision has been taken yet on the most politically sensitive part of the taxonomy, dealing with gas and nuclear investments.

The new proposal will be presented to the Commission next week according to Pascal Canfin, a leading lawmaker who chairs the European Parliament’s powerful environment committee, who claimed “the matter is now in the hands of Ursula Von der Leyen”.

Jessica Johnson, a spokesperson from the Brussels-based nuclear industry association Foratom, said: “We don’t agree that nuclear should be treated any differently to renewables.

“Let’s be very clear about this: nuclear has very low lifecycle emissions, this has been confirmed by the IPCC.”

In another statement she said: “The Commission is under a lot of pressure now.

“They took the decision to have their experts assess nuclear, which was the right decision.

“Those conclusions are that, overall, nuclear complies with the taxonomy.

“So the science is there, but it is a politically contentious issue.

“With all these political discussions there are always negotiations.

“There have been negotiations between the pro-nuclear and pro-gas countries, and we now suspect that in order for nuclear to get through, gas would be one of the tools.”

The taxonomy rulebook is expected to have three categories for sustainable investments: “green”, “enabling” and “transition”.

Gas is likely to be in the third category while nuclear may be included in the second, and renewables would of course be green.

Bronagh O’Hagan from industry association Eurogas says the gas industry is not trying to greenwash its emissions or claim that it is as green as renewables.

She said: “It is true that natural gas will have a declining role in the energy mix to 2050.

“That said, natural gas, gas infrastructure and gas technologies are crucial for a realistic and affordable pathway to carbon neutrality.”

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Ms O’Hagan points out that gas produces up to 70 percent fewer emissions than coal, and gas infrastructure can be used to transport carbon-free fuels in the future, like hydrogen.

Climate campaigners do not agree, however.

Including gas and nuclear would be a “scientific disgrace that would deal a fatal blow to the taxonomy”, says Henry Eviston from the WWF.

He added: “It would severely damage the EU’s sustainable finance agenda and the EU Green Deal.”

Who do you side with on the debate over Green energy? Have your say in the comments section below.

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