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Climate activist Luisa Neubauer stands on the sidelines of a protest against a green E.U. label for nuclear power and gas within the so-called taxonomy in front of the E.U. Commission. (Photo: Marek Majewsky/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Climate activist Luisa Neubauer stands on the sidelines of a protest against a green E.U. label for nuclear power and gas within the so-called taxonomy in front of the E.U. Commission. (Photo: Marek Majewsky/picture alliance via Getty Images)

'Disgrace': EU Panned Over Plan to Label Gas, Nuclear Green

It amounts to an "anti-science plan" that "represents the biggest greenwashing exercise of all time," said Greenpeace E.U. campaigner Ariadna Rodrigo.

Andrea Germanos

The European Commission on Wednesday released a plan to label some nuclear and gas plants green—an announcement that set off a wave of accusations of greenwashing and criticism that it would further delay a transition to truly renewable sources.

"It makes a mockery of the E.U.'s claims to global leadership on climate and the environment."

"I'd like to report an attempted robbery, please," said Greenpeace E.U. sustainable finance campaigner Ariadna Rodrigo in response to the development.

"Someone is trying to take billions of euros away from renewables and sink them into technologies that either do nothing to fight the climate crisis, like nuclear, or which actively make the problem worse, like fossil gas," Rodrigo said. "The suspect is at E.U. Commission HQ and has disguised herself as someone to be taken seriously on the climate and nature crisis."

The proposal is in the E.U.'s "taxonomy of environmentally sustainable activities." That taxonomy, as Euronews put it, is "a technical rulebook that allows private and public investors to make informed choices about climate-conscious investments."

In a press statement, the commission said: "Taking account of scientific advice and current technological progress, the commission considers that there is a role for private investment in gas and nuclear activities in the transition. The gas and nuclear activities selected are in line with the E.U.'s climate and environmental objectives and will allow us to accelerate the shift from more polluting activities, such as coal generation, towards a climate-neutral future, mostly based on renewable energy sources."

Conditions applying to those fuels are "that they contribute to the transition to climate neutrality; for nuclear, that it fulfills nuclear and environmental safety requirements; and for gas, that it contributes to the transition from coal to renewables," the statement added.

The plan calls for gas plants to run on low-carbon gases by 2035—a later date than the 2026 deadline from an earlier draft. Gas plants can carry the green label over the next decade, France 24 added, "if they emit less than 270g of CO2 equivalent per kWh, or have annual emissions below 550kg CO2e per kW over 20 years." As such, the label could cover "gas plants with relatively high CO2 emissions today, provided they switch to low-carbon gas or reduce their running hours in later years," the outlet added.

According to Greenpeace's Rodrigo, it amounts to an "anti-science plan" that "represents the biggest greenwashing exercise of all time."

She said "it makes a mockery of the E.U.'s claims to global leadership on climate and the environment" and called "the inclusion of gas and nuclear in the taxonomy... increasingly difficult to explain as anything other than a giveaway to two desperate industries with powerful political friends."

Other progressive groups sounded alarm as well:

Twenty-year-old Polish climate activist Dominika Lasota responded to the taxonomy with a tweet in which she called it "a slap in the face of millions of people fighting for climate justice & an end to the fossil fuel era. E.U., you really showed you[r] climate ambition today. Disgrace."

Lasota's post included the hashtag #NotOurTaxonomy, a message climate activists brought last month to a protest outside the E.U. Commission headquarters in Brussels.

Pushback to the taxonomy has also come from a number of E.U. member states.

Austria, for one, has vowed to take the issue to the European Court of Justice if the plan is finalized. Belgium announced it would consider joining that legal battle, while Spain's Ecological Transition Ministry said the proposal "doesn't send the appropriate signals for investments in clean energy."

Among the outside experts rejecting the plan was nuclear expert Dr. Paul Dorfman, who said: "The lunatics have taken over the asylum."

Former secretary of the U.K. government's Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters, Dorfman was one of the four experts who issued a joint statement last month saying that "the central message, repeated again and again, that a new generation of nuclear will be clean, safe, smart and cheap, is fiction."

"The reality," they said, "is nuclear is neither clean, safe or smart; but a very complex technology with the potential to cause significant harm. Nuclear isn't cheap, but extremely costly. Perhaps most importantly nuclear is just not part of any feasible strategy that could counter climate change."

The good news, for opponents of the new taxonomy, is that it's not yet finalized as there's a four-month period in which 20 of the bloc's 27 members could veto the rules, as could a majority of European Parliament's lawmakers.

Greenpeace is calling on MEPs to reject the plan.

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is also hoping the taxonomy is vetoed. "Let's work together to keep the #EUGreenDeal alive and stop #StopFakeGreen," the group said.

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