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Demonstrators protest against E.U. greenwashing

Activists demonstrate in downtown Frankfurt against greenwashing of nuclear energy and fossil gas by the taxonomy of the European Union on January 11, 2022. (Photo: Arne Dedert/Picture Alliance via Getty Images)

'Betrayal!' Uproar After EU Backs Industry Push to Label Gas and Nuclear 'Green'

"This is a step backwards in the fight against greenwashing and a step away from the sustainable future the E.U. has promised, but we are not defeated," campaigners said.

Jake Johnson

Climate advocates responded with outrage to the European Parliament's vote Wednesday to classify fossil gas and nuclear projects as "green," an official designation that will allow them to access additional taxpayer subsidies and private capital despite their destructive environmental impacts.

Members of the European Parliament voted 328 to 278 to kill a motion that would have blocked the European Commission's so-called "taxonomy" plan, clearing the way for the proposal to become law as demonstrators inside the parliament building in Strasbourg, France voiced their objections.

"Betrayal!" protesters yelled as an official announced the outcome of the lawmakers' vote.

Politico explains that under the proposed rules, "new gas-fired plants built through 2030 will be recognized as a transitional energy source as long as they replace a coal- or fuel oil-fired plant, switch to a low-carbon gas like hydrogen by 2035, and stay under a maximum emissions cap over 20 years."

"Existing nuclear plants will receive a green label," the outlet added, "if they pledge to switch to so-called 'accident-tolerant fuels' beginning in 2025 and detail plans for final storage of radioactive waste in 2050."

Marie Toussaint, a member of parliament with the Greens, condemned the plan as "an odious greenwashing attempt" and a "failure for Europe and the climate."

In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Toussaint wrote that "with this taxonomy, billions of euros normally devoted to the energy transition will be captured by nuclear energy and gas, dirty, dangerous, and too-expensive energies."

"It's also a huge giveaway for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin," Toussaint argued. "According to Greenpeace E.U., 4 billion euros per year will go to Putin's Russia via new gas projects, for a total of 32 billion euros by 2030."

Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, a co-founder of Progressive International, offered a similar assessment in a video posted to social media Wednesday:

Almost immediately following Wednesday's vote, Greenpeace E.U. vowed to take legal action against the European Commission over the taxonomy, arguing that "it's dirty politics and it's an outrageous outcome to label gas and nuclear as green and keep more money flowing to Putin's war chest."

"The E.U. Commission's shameful backroom dealing on behalf of the fossil fuel and nuclear industries won't help," said Ariadna Rodrigo, Greenpeace E.U.'s sustainable finance campaigner. "We're inspired by the climate activists here in Strasbourg this week and are confident that the courts will strike down this politically motivated greenwashing as clearly in breach of E.U. law."

As the New York Times notes, a "green" label for gas and nuclear projects "provides financial incentives for European countries and companies to invest in those energy sources, and, critics say, would delay fully switching to renewable sources that are much better for the environment, such as wind and solar energy."

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was among those expressing that concern Wednesday, warning that the European Commission rules "will delay a desperately needed real sustainable transition and deepen our dependency on Russian fuels."

"The hypocrisy is striking," she added, "but unfortunately not surprising."

The Not My Taxonomy campaign, which mobilized against the European Commission proposal, said that Wednesday's vote "is not the end."

"This is a step backwards in the fight against greenwashing and a step away from the sustainable future the E.U. has promised, but we are not defeated," the campaigners said. "The movement will continue to fight for our collective future."

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