Irish government urged to oppose EU plan to classify nuclear and natural gas as green energy

The Irish government has been asked to oppose the European Commission’s plan to classify nuclear and natural gas power plants as green energy.

EU taxonomic rules

Brussels consulted with EU Member States on the move as part of the EU Taxonomy which aims to rank activities that contribute to a green transition so that private investors can measure how their portfolios are contributing to climate goals.

Spain has previously said it will reject the move because its officials believe it sends the wrong message as the world tries to cut emissions and tackle the climate crisis.

Nuclear power does not increase greenhouse gas emissions, but it does create radioactive waste while natural gas remains a fossil fuel – even though it is less polluting than coal.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Communications said: “The ministry, together with the Ministry of Finance which is the ministry responsible for taxonomy, is examining the draft Commission delegated regulation which has was published last week. “

EU divided on definition of green energy

Irish EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness said the proposed plan to classify certain nuclear power and natural gas projects as “green” for EU taxonomy and for investment purposes is based on scientific advice.

As the EU Commissioner responsible for Financial Stability, Financial Services and the Capital Markets Union, updates to the EU’s taxonomy fall within the remit of McGuinness. The former Fine Gael MEP is in a difficult position as the classification of natural gas and nuclear power has divided EU states.

Speaking to the Irish Times, McGuinness said the EU taxonomy regulation “gives a prominent role to scientific advice and expert advice from economics and civil society”.

She added: “The taxonomy foresees energy activities that allow member states to move towards climate neutrality from different positions. The taxonomy aims to accelerate the transition to a better, cleaner and safer future, and only investments that engage in this acceleration will be recognized. “

Some countries argue that investments in natural gas are needed as a transitional energy source to bring the EU to net zero by 2050, others argue that this undermines the net zero goal of labeling fossil fuels as green.

On nuclear energy, EU states are also divided. Some countries, including France, Poland and Hungary, favor its use and emphasize its low carbon properties. Others, like Germany and Austria, point out that nuclear energy is accompanied by toxic radioactive waste which is dangerous to human health and the environment for millennia.

A majority of EU states or a vote in the European Parliament could block the proposals.

Climate activists against new gas infrastructure

Futureproof Clare’s Theresa O’Donohoe called on Ireland to support Spain’s position. She said: “At Futureproof Clare, we do not in any way consider that a new gas infrastructure contributes in any way to a renewable energy or a sustainable path.”

Climate Action Network Europe, of which Friends of the Earth Ireland is a member, said that “the complementary delegated act of EU taxonomy tabled by the European Commission is incompatible with limiting global warming to 1.5 ° C and with the EU’s climate targets for 2030 “.

A statue of a giant dinosaur painted with radioactive symbols and blue gas flames is on display by Greenpeace activists outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, to protest against the inclusion of fossil gas and nuclear energy in the list of EU sustainable investments in Brussels, as of December 7, 2021. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP) (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP via Getty Images)

They said the classification system aimed to “create a gold standard for private investors to determine the proportion of their portfolios genuinely against ambitious climate goals” and “dramatically reduce green laundering in the financial sector of the world. ‘EU’.

But instead, they accused the European Commission of “sacrificing the scientific integrity of taxonomy on the altar of the fossil gas and nuclear lobbies” without even giving the public a voice.

The news comes just weeks after An Taisce and the Not Here Not Anywhere campaign group wrote a joint letter to Environment, Climate and Communications Minister Eamon Ryan expressing concerns over plans to seven new fossil fuel gas-fired power stations in Ireland.

During COP26, Ireland joined a global diplomatic initiative to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Ryan has also previously said the country does not need to import liquefied natural gas to meet its energy needs.

“The demand for fossil gas must decrease steadily from 2020, by at least 11% by 2030 and 37% by 2040, if we are to meet the 2050 decarbonisation targets and avoid the worst effects of change climate, ”the letter reads.

The letter raised three key concerns, including the role of data centers in stimulating demand for new fossil-fueled energy, how locking in fossil fuels could undermine the drive to meet carbon targets and exposure. country to global gas supply disruptions.

They called on the government to focus its efforts on replacing fossil fuels with zero carbon energies such as renewable electricity and green hydrogen.

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