RAF CASERT and Samuel Petraquin, by the Associated Press
BRUSSELS (AP) – European lawmakers will decide on Wednesday whether fossil gas and nuclear power can be included in the EU’s list of sustainable activities, in a cliff-age vote aimed at climate change but heavily affected by the war in Ukraine.
The executive commission of the 27-nation bloc wants nuclear energy and natural gas in its green money plan to build a climate-friendly future, believing it will phase out more polluted fuels like oil and coal.
But it has divided the 27 member states and even the political parties in parliament, while environmentalists claim it is a “green wash”.
Protests that began on Tuesday continued outside the EU legislature in Strasbourg, France, on Wednesday, as lawmakers debated the issue. A vote was planned at noon (1000GMT). Two parliamentary committees objected to the measure last month, but legislators said Wednesday’s vote was too close.
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If an absolute majority – or 353 – EU legislators vote against the so-called taxation commission regulations, it must be revoked or amended.
The European Commission’s Green Labeling System, the executive branch of the European Union, defines what qualifies as an investment in sustainable energy. Under certain conditions, gas and nuclear power can be part of the mix, making it easier for individual investors to inject money between the two.
One argument for rejecting the proposal is that it would boost Russian gas sales at a time when it is attacking neighboring Ukraine, but the commission said it had received a letter from the Ukrainian government to support its position.
European Commissioner Myred McGuinness quoted a letter from Ukraine’s energy minister on Tuesday: “I strongly believe that the inclusion of gas and nuclear in the classification is an important component of Europe’s energy security, especially with regard to Russian gas substitution.”
“I don’t think we should assume this letter is second,” McGuinness said.
The Commission believes that the inclusion of atom and gas as sources of interim energy, which will be phased out later, is not a free pass, as conditions still have to be met.
With the EU aiming to reach climate neutrality by 2050 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, it says that the classification system is crucial for direct investment in sustainable energy. It estimates that meeting the 2030 target will require an investment of around 350 billion euros per year.
The 27-nation bloc is trying to free itself from dependence on Russian fossil fuels, and member states have already agreed to ban 90% of Russian oil by the end of the year. Before the war in Ukraine, it relied on Russia for 25% of its oil and 40% of its natural gas.
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