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MEP calls on Taoiseach to oppose EU 'green' label for nuclear and gas

The divisive proposal would classify natural gas and nuclear power as sustainable investments.
Jan 13th 2022, 2:15 PM 8,452 32

AN IRISH MEP has written to the Taoiseach to ask him to object to an EU proposal that would label nuclear power and natural gas as green sources of energy.

Independent MEP Mick Wallace wrote to Micheál Martin and Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan today to oppose the measure, which has already drawn criticism from anti-nuclear countries such as Austria and Luxembourg.

The EU taxonomy – a list that classifies economic activities as environmentally sustainable for investors – could include nuclear power and natural gas if member states do not object to a Delegated Act from the European Commission.

Opponents of the measure say that efforts to phase out fossil fuels must focus on renewable energy sources like wind, hydro and solar.

Other experts argue that nuclear power is a safe source of energy and that natural gas, which produces less emissions than coals, will be useful as a ‘transition’ fuel on the path to decarbonisation.

In a letter, Wallace wrote: “Dear Micheál, dear Eamon, I am writing to you to urge you to use Ireland’s voice to raise an objection to the Complementary Delegated Act to the EU taxonomy for sustainable investment.”

“Ireland must show integrity and side with science to ensure that the EU taxonomy for sustainable investment is used as a tool to prevent greenwashing, and doesn’t end up promoting it.”

Austria, an anti-nuclear country, threatened to bring the European Commission to court if the plan was implemented in its current form after the Commission sent the text to member states on New Year’s Eve.

Its minister of climate action said the country would examine the draft closely and that it requested a legal opinion on the inclusion of nuclear energy.

Leaders in Germany and Luxembourg have raised similar objections.

Calling on the Irish government to do the same, Wallace said that “every euro spent on gas and nuclear is a euro not spent on renewables”.

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency have said that as a low-carbon power source, nuclear energy can play an important role in meeting the Paris Agreement target,” he said.

“However, nuclear has inherent waste and pollution problems, which contravene the other environmental objectives of the Taxonomy and thus do not respect the ‘do no significant harm’ principle of the Regulation.

The international repercussions of the classification of fossil gas and nuclear as green activities in the EU taxonomy are enormous and seem to have not been duly considered.

“Countries around the globe are in the process of setting up their own sustainable taxonomies, to align finance flows to climate goals as required by the Paris Agreement. With this delegated act as proposed, we give the rest of the world the thumbs up to call whatever they like sustainable. We lower the bar internationally and lose moral authority.”

It’s expected that the Delegated Act will come to a vote in the European Parliament after anticipated objections from MEPs, who have four months to scrutinise the document.

In a statement, the Commission said it “considers there is a role for natural gas and nuclear as a means to facilitate the transition towards a predominantly renewable-based future”.

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“Within the Taxonomy framework, this would mean classifying these energy sources under clear and tight conditions (for example, gas must come from renewable sources or have low emissions by 2035), in particular as they contribute to the transition to climate neutrality,” the Commission said.

At least five Irish MEPs are against the proposal, while one Fianna Fáil MEP is for it and others told The Journal they needed more time to analyse it.

Greens Ciarán Cuffe and Grace O’Sullivan and Independents Clare Daly, Mick Wallace and Luke Ming Flanagan do not support the measure, though Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher said he was in favour of it.

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