The European Parliament Wednesday voted to advance legislation which would include certain gas and nuclear energy-related activities in the European Union (EU) list of environmentally sustainable activities. This inclusion, subject to strict conditions, aims to enable EU members’ transition to climate neutrality by 2050.
In 2020 the EU passed the Taxonomy Regulation, setting out a classification system of environmentally sustainable activities. The regulation lists six environmental objectives: climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, the sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources, the transition to a circular economy, pollution prevention and control, and the protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems. Activities contributing “substantially” to one or more of these objectives while not harming any of them are considered environmentally sustainable.
The taxonomy seeks to guide private investment toward sustainable activities and does not dictate which energy sources EU member states are to use.
The European Commission (EC) passed the first Delegated Regulation in 2021, providing clear criteria for environmentally sustainable activities in sectors such as energy from solar, wind, ocean, geothermal, bioenergy and hydropower sources. However, the EC excluded nuclear power in the 2021 regulation since a scientific assessment of the effects of nuclear power was ongoing at the time. Similarly, gas power was excluded since “further reflection was needed on how to address the role of gas in the decarbonisation of the [EU’s] economy.”
On February 2 the EC presented a Complementary Delegated Regulation covering these two areas in light of a completed scientific analysis by the EC’s Joint Research Centre. While noting that nuclear energy activities were low-carbon and a part of many EU members’ efforts to decarbonize by 2050, the text laid down “clear and strict conditions,” subject to which certain nuclear and gas energy-related activities could be added as “transitional activities,” to the list of activities in the first Delegated Regulation.
These conditions include contributing to the “transition to climate neutrality,” fulfilling “nuclear and environmental safety requirements” (for nuclear) and contributing to the “transition from coal to renewables” (for gas). Moreover, the regulation introduces disclosure requirements to allow investors to make informed choices about investments involving gas or nuclear activities.
The European Parliament and the Council were given four months to veto the regulation. For the Council, this means at least 20 EU members representing at least 65% of the EU population voting against the regulation, while for the European Parliament, it means at least 353 of its 705 members voting against it. Since neither the European Parliament nor the Council has vetoed the regulation, it will enter into force on 1 January 2023.
The EC welcomed the latter’s vote not to veto the regulation, stating it was a recognition of the EC’s “pragmatic and realistic approach” towards climate neutrality.