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EU Parliament votes down objection to divisive 'sustainable' label for nuclear and gas

Ireland’s two Fianna Fáil MEPs took opposite sides of the debate.

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT has voted down an objection to labelling gas and nuclear power as sustainable energy sources, effectively approving a proposal that has created significant contention since January.

The European Commission had proposed that gas and nuclear be added to an EU list, called the taxonomy, that classifies economic activities as environmentally sustainable. 

It split MEPs between those who believe gas and nuclear are necessary for energy supply and in the transition away from fuels like coal and oil, and those who object to gas as a fossil fuel or nuclear for its drawbacks.

An objection to the proposal was lodged in the European Parliament.

In a relatively close vote this morning, 328 MEPs voted against the objection and 278 voted in favour, while 33 abstained – with Ireland’s two Fianna Fáil MEPs taking opposite sides.

After months of debate, the result today prompted a vocal response in the Plenary session – some cheering, others booing.

Last month, two EU committees objected to the proposal, which cast doubt in EU circles over whether the proposal could survive the Parliament’s scrutiny.

The environment and economic committees passed an objection to the proposal with 76 in favour, 62 against, and four abstentions.

The proposal has been led by Commissioner for Financial Services and Fine Gael member Mairéad McGuiness, who defended the plan yesterday during a debate.

McGuinness rejected suggestions that she had called gas “green”, saying “gas is a fossil fuel, it is not green” but that some member states require gas as a transition fuel.

Irish MEPs have been divided on the taxonomy proposal.

Greens Ciarán Cuffe and Grace O’Sullivan have spoken against it, with Cuffe today calling the outcome of the vote a ”dark day for climate action”.

Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher came out in support of the proposal shortly after it was announced and voted in its favour today, but his party colleague Barry Andrews supported the objection.

Fine Gael’s MEPs voted in favour of McGuiness’ proposal, while Sinn Féin’s Chris MacManus and Independents Clare Daly, Mick Wallace and Luke Flanagan objected.

Responding to the vote, the European Environmental Bureau, a network of environmental NGOs, said that “billions of euros in ‘green’ financing now risk being diverted into polluting energy sources that are far from being harmless and temporary, at the expense of energy efficiency and renewables”.

Its Policy Officer Marco Musso Citizens said that “citizens, civil society as well as the scientific and investor communities are left astonished by this act of institutionalised greenwashing”.

“The decision to label fossil gas and nuclear as sustainable investments represents a serious blow to the transparency and governance of the overall process, putting at risk the further development of the EU Sustainable Finance framework,” Musso said.

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