Is gas a green energy? Europeans can’t get along

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“At a time when we need clarity, the inclusion of gas sets an unnecessary precedent and clouds the waters for investors looking to do the right thing. The inclusion of gas also risks channeling significant levels of capital towards initiatives that compromise a sustainable, net-zero future.

According to FinancialTimes, a group of scientific experts that helped design the taxonomy also wrote last week to the European Commission to express concern.

“A step back”

Brussels’ proposal is that a gas-fired power project is considered green if it produces less than 270 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour, as opposed to the 100-gram threshold preferred by scientists. The exemption applies to projects that obtain a permit before 2030 and that are intended to replace coal.

The governments of Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg and Spain jointly wrote to the European Commission last week describing the proposal, which was released on New Year’s Eve, as “a step backwards”.

“We find the new project problematic both politically and technically,” they wrote.

Environmental groups have been less circumspect, accusing Brussels of greenwashing.

They were already outraged by an earlier installment of the taxonomy, which gave the forestry sector what they saw as too broad a blessing.

But the big European beasts leaned the other way. France derives around 70% of its electricity from nuclear power and has defended this exclusion. It has the support of a dozen other countries.

Germany, which gave up nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster, is increasingly dependent on gas. Germany’s new three-party government coalition includes the Greens, so it is struggling to come to a common position on the new EU proposal.

The German government’s letter to the European Commission, sent just before the Friday deadline, opposes classifying nuclear as sustainable but supports the concept of gas as “a transitional solution”.

Poland has also backed Brussels, with Environment Undersecretary Adam Guibourge-Czetwertynski telling France24 that “gas is replacing coal because there’s nothing better in the short term, that makes sense.”

Brussels seems ready to do what it wants: despite the controversy, there does not seem to be a majority among EU member states, or on the floor of the European Parliament, to block nuclear or gas proposals.

Yet MEPs from across the political spectrum have criticized the European Commission’s rushed process, which has given governments only weeks to react and plans to publish the final rules within months.

MEPs from the Socialist, Green and Conservative camps have submitted their own letters to the EC demanding more consultation and proper scrutiny.

Brussels, however, sees no need to prolong the stoush. EC officials told the Euractiv news service that the nuclear and gas debate had been going on for more than a year and that the process of drafting the latest regulation was agreed in 2019.

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