The European Commission, has, overnight, made a 180 degree turn and classified fossil fuel and nuclear energy as “green investments”. 

Following pressures of a number of EU Member States, the European Commission steps back and includes in its recent report fossil fuels and nuclear energy as transitional fuels in tackling climate crisis.  

The European Union, in its effort to drive investments into project implementation with a positive climate impact, proceeded in 2020 in creating the Taxonomy Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2020/852) [1], which is a system of investment criteria that truly contributing into the transition of the EU to an environmentally sustainable and climate neutral economy.

Through this regulation, the EU should set a “golden rule” related to private and public projects and plans, which are allowed to be entitled as green investments, on the basis of a clear and thorough scientific approach.

Unfortunately, however, the Regulation’s initial objective has been undermined, since a draft decision issued by the Commission on December 31, just a few hours before New Year’s Eve celebrations, includes fossil gas and nuclear energy in the list of “green investments” [2]. This development is in stark contrast with the recommendations of the Technical Expert Group on Sustainable Finance on Taxonomy, that previously concluded that the aforementioned investments should not be included in the green investments list [3].

Such careless and anti environmental deviation appears to the result of multiple pressures of a number of member states that advocate that nuclear energy and fossil fuel should be considered transitional fuels in order to achieve a climate neutral economy. Unfortunately, it appears that Cyprus is amongst the member states that support this idea, even though previously, together with another 10 member states, they reported against the changes to the Regulation [4].

Promoting the use of fossil gas as a sustainable activity is doubtful for a number of reasons. Firstly, it does not comply with the EU’s 2030 climate goals and the 1.5°C global warming target. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), any new investment in fossil fuels does not comply with limiting global warming within 1.5 °C [5]. Moreover, in order for Europe to achieve its 2030 climate goals, the use of fossil fuels should be decreased by 32-37%, meaning that there shouldn’t be any new investments into fossil fuels [6].

As per the inclusion of nuclear energy into Taxonomy, it also appears to be ambiguous and incompatible with green investments. It is true that nuclear energy helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, however, it preserves a high risk into environmental conservation. Even if we ignore the possibility of disastrous nuclear accidents, it is obvious that nuclear energy can cause important environmental and social damage in all the stages of the supply chain – from the extraction to the disposal of nuclear waste [7].

Terra Cypria, the Cyprus Conservation Foundation, finds the aforementioned developments very worrying.  It is known that due to the geographic location of our island, it will be affected by climate change to a much higher extend than many European countries. This is why we expected the Cypriot Government to be more sensible and vigilant in the efforts in transitioning into a green and sustainable economy. Our transition, however, requires new investments into strictly sustainable energy production technologies, for instance solar energy, combined with energy storage units, and not in any kind of fossil fuels.

It is must be finally understood that the transition into a green economy will require substantial social and economical reforms. The transition is not only about the “nagging” of several environmental organisations, but it is the only way to tackling climate crisis and ensuring a good quality of life for present and future generations.

We hope that the European Commission, EU bodies and EU Member States, will be prompt to understand their wrongdoing, and that the Taxonomy Regulation will be reviewed as soon as possible in order to comply to the suggestion of the Technical Committee, appointed by the Commission itself.

[1] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EL/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32020R0852&from=EN
[2] https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/el/IP_22_2
[3] Technical annex to the TEG final report on the EU taxonomy, 09 March 2020
[4] https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy-environment/news/brussels-postponed-green-finance-rules-after-10-eu-states-wielded-veto/
[5] IEA (2021), Net Zero by 2050, IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/net-zero-by-2050
[6] European Commission (2020). Impact Assessment: Stepping up Europe’s 2030 climate ambition Investing in a climate-neutral future for the benefit of our people.
[7] Republic of Austria (2021). Nuclear energy is not a “green” investment. Report of the Federal Ministry on climate action, environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology.

 

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