Currently, the green taxonomy, that gathers activities that contribute to the ecological transition and do not harm the climate or the environment – excludes the nuclear and significantly limits gas investment. However, a specific technical expertise and an higher CO2 emission threshold than expected could lead to their inclusion. Let us entangle this worrying sleight of hand.
After a two-year work, the technical expert group (TEG) handed its final report on the European green taxonomy. On the basis of this work, the EU Parliament adopted the regulation on June 18th 2020. Now, the two remaining steps for the taxonomy are:
- For its first 2 objectives, attenuation of and adaptation to climate change, be implemented with delegated acts before the end of 2020.
- For its 4 other objectives – water use, waste and circular economy, pollution and protection of ecosystems -, be further defined by the work of the new sustainable finance platform and achieved by the end of 2021.
The TEG set a 100g CO2/Kwh threshold that made really hard to include gas projects to the green taxonomy. It logically concluded that it could not determine whether the nuclear would “not harm” the environment and decided to exclude it from the taxonomy.
However, under continuous pressure from lobbies, the Commission wants the nuclear to undergo a specific technical expertise and could choose a CO2 threshold that allows for a broad inclusion of gas projects.
Unlike all other activities, the nuclear would be studied by the joint research center of the EU Commission. Following this last expertise, it could reintegrate the green taxonomy by the end of 2021. This process raises many questions, especially considering the high pressure that nuclear companies and countries – including France – have put on the Commission to include it in the taxonomy. Moreover, the fact that the Commission might disregard the TEG’s recommandations and adopt an higher CO2 threshold – such as the EIB 250 g CO2/Kwh – to protect the gas sector raises questions about the EU climate strategy. Gas, like all other fossil fuels, need to be phased out by 2040/2050.
Behind closed doors, the EU will decide of the inclusion of nuclear and gas to the taxonomy, a decision that will greatly impact the energy future of the Union.
Instead of blindly trying to protect the nuclear, European leaders should ask the Commission to immediately start its work on a “brown” taxonomy, that would identify the activities incompatible with the EU climate objectives.