UK taxpayer will contribute towards nuclear power strategy
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The European Union has drawn up plans to categorise some natural gas and nuclear energy projects as “green” investments to help financial markets. The labelling system would cover industries that generate around 80 percent of all greenhouse emissions – and would give the bloc the power to determine what is regarded as sustainable economic activity.
It is also hoped the proposals will prevent so-called “greenwashing”, a term given to firms who overstate their eco-friendly credentials.
A number of EU countries, including Germany, Austria and Luxembourg, have voiced opposition to the proposals.
German economy minister Robert Habeck said: “It is questionable whether this greenwashing will even find acceptance on the financial market.
“In our view, there was no need for this addition to the taxonomy rules.”
Claude Turmes, Luxembourg’s energy minister, called the inclusion of nuclear power as a green source of energy as “provocation”.
Meanwhile, Leonore Gewessler, Austria’s minister for climate and energy, said Vienna may consider suing the European Commission if it goes ahead.
The move comes just months after world leaders agreed to try and keep the global temperature rise at 1.5C at the COP26 summit in Glasgow.
There was also a plan to reduce coal usage – but the commitment was watered down to “phase down” rather than “phase out” following an intervention from China and India.
Natural gas emits roughly half the carbon emissions of coal when burned in power plants.
Nuclear power produces very low levels of carbon emissions, but many experts have raised concerns over the impact of its toxic waste product.
Germany, which has the largest economy in the EU, continue to phase out nuclear and closed the third of its six power stations on Friday.
The German government do not regard nuclear power as a sustainable source of energy.
A government spokesperson said: “For the German government, natural gas is an important bridging technology on the way to greenhouse gas neutrality against the background of the phase-out of nuclear energy and coal-fired power generation.
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“The government’s position on nuclear energy remains unchanged. The government remains convinced that nuclear power cannot be classified as sustainable.”
EU states including the Czech Republic, Finland and France, get around 70 percent of its power from the nuclear power.
They see nuclear energy as playing a key role in reducing CO2 emissions from coal power.
The European Commission is expected to formally put forward proposals later this month on whether gas and nuclear projects will be included in the EU “sustainable finance taxonomy”.
According to a draft proposal, nuclear power plant investments would be labelled as green if the project has a plan, funds and a site to safely dispose of radioactive waste.
Investments in natural gas power plants would also be deemed green if they produce emissions below 270g of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt hour (kWh), replace a more polluting fossil fuel plant, and receive a construction permit by December 2030.
New nuclear plants must also receive construction permits before 2045.
If a majority of EU members back the proposal then it could become law as early as 2023.
In a statement, the European Commission said: “Taking account of scientific advice and current technological progress as well as varying transition challenges across member states, the Commission considers there is a role for natural gas and nuclear as a means to facilitate the transition towards a predominantly renewable-based future.”
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