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Environmentalists condemn 'outrageous' green label for gas, nuclear

Published July 06,2022

The European Parliament's backing of a proposal to label investments in gas and nuclear energy as sustainable has triggered a wave of condemnation among environmentalists and opponents.

The proposal, part of the EU's guidebook for sustainable financing called "taxonomy," is intended to channel private investments to help the European Union meet its 2050 climate goal of "net zero" greenhouse gas emissions.

A major bid across the EU parliament to block the proposal failed to achieve the 353 votes necessary, with just 328 EU lawmakers voting against it.

The new rules will automatically apply from 2023 unless a qualified majority of EU member states decides to reject them.

"Outrageous," the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) said on Twitter, publishing a graphic of a power plant billowing smoke.

The decision "risks channeling billions of euros of investments into these harmful energy sources and away from genuinely sustainable renewable energies, such as wind and solar power," the accompanying WWF press release said.

The vote is "greenwashing at its best, coming from those who aspire to be the world's first climate-neutral continent," according to Mathilde Crêpy, a campaigner with the Environmental Coalition on Standards (ECOS), an environmental group.

"Gas plants will now be able to receive money, labelled as green, that could be otherwise destined for renewable energy, such as wind or solar," she added.

"This will delay a desperately needed real sustainable transition," climate activist Greta Thunberg said on Twitter. "The hypocrisy is striking, but unfortunately not surprising," she added.

Ministers from Austria and Luxembourg reaffirmed their plans to pursue legal action against the labelling should it not be blocked by member states before coming into effect.

Austrian Climate Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler tweeted that Austria will file an already prepared action for annulment at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) as soon as the "greenwashing programme" takes effect.

Gewessler added that she would now work to "win more allies."

"[This decision] is neither credible, ambitious nor knowledge-based, endangers our future and is more than irresponsible," Gewessler said.

"The battle continues," Bas Eickhout, a Dutch EU legislator with the Greens who led the bid to block the proposal, tweeted, commenting on the potential legal complaint.

Whether Austria and Luxembourg will find enough allies to prevent the bill from comming into effect is unlikely.

Germany "stands by its position and considers nuclear energy unsustainable," Steffen Hebestreit, a German government spokesperson, stressed in Berlin.

Other big EU countries, including France, Poland, and the Netherlands, however back the proposal.

France, which currently runs over 50 nuclear reactors and is planning to rely on the technology to cut carbon emissions, has been particularly keen in recent months to add nuclear energy to green investment portfolios.

Poland has previously said more investments in gas and nuclear energy would help the country move away from coal.

EU Commissioner for Financial Services Mairead McGuinness welcomed the vote, describing the investment framework as a "pragmatic proposal" to ensure a transition towards renewable energy sources.

McGuinness, who has spearheaded the proposal, said the move "ensures transparency so investors will know what they are investing in," rebuffing criticism from environmentalists.