EU moves to label nuclear and gas energy as ‘green’

The EU is planning to label energy from nuclear power and natural gas as "green" sources for investment despite internal disagreement over whether they truly qualify as sustainable options.

The cooling towers of Civaux nuclear plant are seen over the clouds
The cooling towers of Civaux nuclear plant are seen over the clouds on November 10th, 2021 in Chatellerault, western France. France has led the charge for nuclear power to be included as 'green' energy sources. Guillaume SOUVANT / AFP

The proposal, seen by AFP on Saturday, aims to support the 27-nation bloc’s shift towards a carbon-neutral future and gild its credentials as a global standard-setter for fighting climate change.

But the fact the European Commission quietly distributed the text to member states late Friday, in the final hours of 2021 after the much-delayed document had been twice promised earlier in the year, highlighted the rocky road to draft it.

If a majority of member states back it, it will become EU law, coming into effect from 2023.

The commission confirmed on Saturday that it has started consulting with member states on the proposal where it covers nuclear and gas energy.

“The activities covered in this complementary Delegated Act would accelerate the phase out of more harmful sources, such as coal, and in moving us towards a more low-carbon greener energy mix,” it said.

It said it “considers there is a role for natural gas and nuclear as a means to facilitate the transition towards a predominantly renewable-based future”.

France has led the charge for nuclear power — its main energy source — to be included, despite robust opposition from Austria and scepticism from Germany, which is in the process of shutting all its nuclear plants.


Germany’s Environment Minister Steffi Lemke told German media group Funke on Saturday that including gas and nuclear would be “a mistake”, arguing that atomic power “can lead to devastating environmental catastrophes”.

Austrian Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler also criticised the project, denouncing nuclear power as “an energy of the past” that was “too expensive and too slow” to combat climate change.

Conditions attached
Fossil-reliant countries in the EU’s east and south have defended the use of natural gas, at least as a transitional source, even though it still produces significant greenhouse emissions.

“It is necessary to recognise that the fossil gas and nuclear energy sectors can contribute to the decarbonisation of the Union’s economy,” the commission proposal says.

It added that, for nuclear power, appropriate measures should be put in place for radioactive waste management and disposal.

Its proposal calls for the building of new nuclear power plants to be conditioned on permits given out before 2045, and work to extend the functioning of existing plants would need to be authorised before 2040.

For gas, it said that carbon-emission limits should be set to well below those produced by coal-burning plants, and it should only be a transitionary source with plants needing building permits given before 2031.

The member states and experts consulted by the commission have two weeks to demand revisions to the proposal before a final draft is published in mid-January.

The European Parliament would then have four months to either approve or reject the text with a simple vote.

Member comments

  1. France and Germany did this. Understandable since they failed to build green infrastructure and now they want to ride this out – as a bridge Technology. Also, it is just about investments. Stakeholders could still only invest in real green technologies. We know they wont, a quick dime i guess. Sweden will also ride out their nuclear power plants but as a country should invest more into regenerative power. Otherwise middle and southern sweden will pay the bill for the energy hungry german industry. Btw 1kwh windrotor is only 2500€, suffices for most baseline consumption.

  2. “fossil gas … can contribute to decarbonisation” has to be the most absurd sentence I’ve read in a long time. If it burns fuel that produces CO2, it’s not green.

    By this logic, coal is good for the environment because burning cow patties is worse.

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Germany says EU will ‘severely’ sanction Putin

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Friday said new sanctions against Russia would personally punish President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for their responsibility in the invasion of Ukraine.

Germany says EU will 'severely' sanction Putin

“They are responsible for the death of innocent people in Ukraine. They are responsible that the international system is trampled and we as Europeans do not accept that,” Baerbock said as she arrived for talks in Brussels.

As of Friday afternoon, it was unclear whether Putin and Lavrov would still be allowed to enter the EU without restrictions. Normally, indviduals who are sanctions lists also face entry bans, which would only be lifted with exceptional permission, for example for peace talks.

The punitive measures are part of a large sanctions package that is expected to come into force later today. The foreign ministers of the 27 EU states plan to sign off on the legal texts on Friday afternoon. 

According to diplomats, the heads of state and government of the EU states agreed on the listing of Putin and Lavrov on the sanctions list on Thursday evening.

Though Russia’s president is very unlikely to have assets abroad, the mention of Putin and his Foreign Minister in the sanctions list is intended as a symbolic show of resolve. 

Other EU economic sanctions target the areas of energy, finance and transport. In addition, the EU is export controls on certain products and restrictions on visas in place. 

Not so SWIFT

Two sanctions that experts believe would have the hardest impact – excluding from Russia from the SWIFT banking system and banning natural gas imports – were notably absent from the sanctions package on Friday.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, does not actually handle any transfers of funds itself.

But the system is used by banks to send standardised messages about transfers of sums between themselves, transfers of sums for clients, and buy and sell orders for assets. 

This means that a country shut out of it would face huge difficulties when attempting to trade with others and is generally considered the nuclear option when it comes to sanctions on Russia. 

The lack of movement on SWIFT has been met with dismay by Ukrainian leaders, who have expressly called on Western allies to expel Moscow from the system that banks rely on to transfer money.

But US President Joe Biden revealed this week that while it remains an option, “right now that’s not the position that the rest of Europe wishes to take.”

READ ALSO: OPINION: This is Russia’s war, but we Europeans need to learn fast from our mistakes

He claimed that the action taken to freeze the assets of Russian banks would have a more severe impact than blocking access to SWIFT. 

However, many political figures are deeply unhappy about the delay in excluding Russia from the transfer system.  

Writing on Twitter, former European Council President Donald Tusk lashed out at the EU nations – including Germany – who are believed to have been responsible for obstructing the harder sanctions. 

Donald Tusk

Former European Council President Donald Tusk speaks in Warsaw, Poland, on February 25th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/PAP | Pawel Supernak

“In this war, everything is real: Putin’s madness and cruelty, Ukrainian victims, bombs falling on Kyiv. Only your sanctions are pretended (sic),” Tusk wrote. “Those EU governments, which blocked tough decisions (i.e. Germany, Hungary, Italy) have disgraced themselves.”

Speaking on public television on Friday, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner laid out starkly the preoccupation of Europe’s biggest economy: suspension of SWIFT “would mean that there is a high risk that Germany will no longer receive gas, raw material supplies from Russia”.

Lindner said he was “open” to including SWIFT “in the course of possible further toughening of sanctions” while adding that allies would “have to be aware of the consequences.”

The EU, US and UK have all indicated the SWIFT is still on the table for a later date, and experts have predicted that Russia may retaliate to the sanctions by opting to cut off supplies of natural gas into Europe. 

Up until recently, the Russian state-owned company Gazprom has supplied around 40 percent of the gas consumed in the EU, according to the EU Commission.

Germany, meanwhile, gets around 55 percent of its natural gas from Russia, accounting to around 25 percent of its total energy needs. 

READ ALSO: ‘Historical failure’: Germany to hike military spending after years of underfunding