European Commission advisory body slams plan to label gas and nuclear ‘sustainable’


A panel of sustainable finance experts consulted by the European Commission has thrown a spanner in the works over the proposal by the EU executive to define natural gas and nuclear power as “sustainable.”

The suggestion, made by the commission over the Christmas and new year break, that fossil fuel gas and low-carbon energy source nuclear be included in the EU taxonomy of sustainable energy sources has proved hugely controversial.

Late on Friday night, the Platform on Sustainable Finance body of experts consulted by the commission on the topic roundly criticized the idea gas and nuclear be considered sustainable.

Panel member Sandrine Dixson-Declève said gas and nuclear projects contravene the central requirement that EU energy projects “do no significant harm,” to the bloc's environmental and climate change ambitions.

Dixson-Declève, co-president of the Swiss-based Club of Rome thinktank which includes current and former heads of state and other high-ranking politicians alongside scientists, diplomats, economists and business leaders, said the commission's draft Complementary Delegated Act, issued on Dec. 31 and passed to the panel for feedback, should be paused. The energy transition advocate said this morning: “The commission should not rush forward with the Complementary Delegated Act, additional time is needed to address and act on the platform feedback to ensure consistency with the intention of the taxonomy regulation.”

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She pointed out natural-gas-fired generation could breach the emissions limits agreed for the sector by the EU, stating: “The emission intensity threshold of 100g of CO2 equivalent [emitted] per kilowatt-hour [of electricity generated] was agreed to by all three European Union institutions and the science-based goalposts should not be shifted in retrospect, to pander to national interests. The use of the green taxonomy to try and address all dimensions of the energy system transition is completely inappropriate and will completely undermine the impact of the taxonomy framework.”

Maia Godemer, research associate at analyst BloombergNEF will look back on the 2021 sustainable debt market in the February edition of pv magazine. Concerning the EU sustainability taxonomy, she writes: “In its current state, the proposed greenhouse gas thresholds for natural gas could derail EU climate targets and weaken the bloc’s green investment offering, according to BloombergNEF. The inclusion of nuclear raises eyebrows due to safety and waste management issues, which could prevent the technology [satisfying] the “do no significant harm” criteria outlined in the taxonomy.”

The draft Complementary Delegated Act was not made open to public feedback but the commission has committed to considering the responses made by the panel and by fellow consultation body the Member States Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, with both bodies required to submit their thoughts earlier this month.

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