The European Parliament has rejected a motion to oppose inclusion of nuclear and natural gas as environmentally sustainable economic activities under the European Commission's Taxonomy Delegated Act.
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The EC has proposed a transitional role for gas and nuclear in the green transition, with inclusion in the taxonomy regulation promoting access to private sustainable finance.
"If neither Parliament nor Council object to the proposal by July 11, 2022, the Taxonomy Delegated Act will enter into force and apply as of Jan. 1, 2023," the EP said.
Voting in favor of the resolution were 278 MEPs, while 328 voted against and 33 abstained. An absolute majority of 353 MEPs was needed for Parliament to veto the Commission's proposal.
The proposal states that inclusion requires new gas-fired power or heat assets must have life-cycle emissions of below 100g CO2/kWh, or meet a number of stringent conditions and obtain a construction permit by 2030.
Gas plants must have plans to switch to renewable or low-carbon gases by the end of 2035, in line with an overall CO2 emissions threshold of 270 g/kWh or annual emissions not exceeding an average of 550 kg/kW over 20 years.
For nuclear, inclusion covers investment in new Generation III+ projects approved for construction until 2045, R&D investment in advanced technologies promoting safety and minimal waste, and investment in existing nuclear installations to extend operational lifetimes approved until 2040.
Environmental group ClientEarth said it was "looking at options to challenge the inclusion of fossil gas in the Taxonomy in court – greenwashing cannot win."
"Branding fossil gas as transitional and green in the Taxonomy is unlawful as it clashes with the EU's key climate legislation, including the European Climate Law and the Taxonomy regulation itself," said ClientEarth lawyer Marta Toporek.
Sector association nucleareurope welcomed the vote. "The science clearly states that nuclear is sustainable and essential in the fight against climate change," said its director general Yves Desbazeille.