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‘Biggest act of greenwashing in history’: Europe labels gas and nuclear ‘green’

The European Parliament voted to keep some uses of fossil gas and nuclear energy in its taxonomy of sustainable investments yesterday.

328 MEPs voted against a proposal to remove gas and nuclear projects from the EU’s draft green finance labelling system, with 278 in favour and 33 abstaining from the vote.

The taxonomy is a classification system to enable the financial sector to identify ‘green’ investment opportunities and allow these projects to access private sector funding in line with the EU’s net zero targets.

Supporters of the move have said nuclear projects will aid the EU to transition to renewable energy, while gas projects could lower emissions, replace coal power and increase energy security.

However, the decision has sparked controversy, as natural gas emits 58.6% as much CO2 as coal, according to the U.S. Energy Information Association, and nuclear power results in issues with storing radioactive waste.

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Luca Bonaccorsi, sustainable finance director at clean transport campaign group, Transport & Environment, said: ‘This must be the biggest act of greenwashing in history; enacted by the same people that are supposed to protect us from the climate crisis. The sun won’t set in the east just because a bunch of complicit politicians say so in a law. Nor will gas ever be clean and renewable. The laws of nature don’t lie, but the taxonomy does. This bill will not stand up to the many legal challenges being announced, and it will be shunned by investors.’

While gas and nuclear projects were allowed in the taxonomy, only projects using the energy sources ‘sparingly’ and in specific ways will be included.

Transport & Environment says this decision will undermine the credibility of sustainable investment and possibly support a whole industry of fake green investments.

Bonaccorsi added: ‘On top of being environmentally disastrous the bill is also unfair, with almost 75% of the estimated green funds going to France and Germany. The criteria to access green funds have been skillfully designed to steer all funds towards the two member states that co-authored the law. This is a truly sad day for Europe.’

Environment groups, such as WWF and ClientEarth, announced they would be considering possible legal action to prevent the EU with going ahead with their plans in response to the news.

Director at WWF European Policy Office, Ester Asin, said: ‘We’ve lost this battle, but we won’t give up the fight. We believe that this act is inconsistent with the Taxonomy regulation,  so together with other organisations like ClientEarth, WWF will explore all potential avenues for further action to stop this greenwashing and protect the credibility of the whole EU Taxonomy – and calls on Member States and MEPs to do the same.’

Photo by Viktor Kiryanov

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