MEPs set for showdown with Brussels over gas and nuclear as ‘green’ investments

MEPs need majority in European Parliament to vote down EC’s delegated act to classify fossil gas and nuclear as ‘green investments’

Pascal Canfin, chair of the ENVI committee
Pascal Canfin, chair of the ENVI committee

A joint meeting of two European Parliament committees has voted against the European Commission’s inclusion to define nuclear and gas as environmentally sustainable economic activities.

In a joint meeting of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee and the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee, MEPs adopted an objection to the Commission’s proposal, with 76 votes to 62 votes and 4 abstentions.

The MEPs opposed a decision by the European Commission in February to add gas and nuclear activities in the so-called EU Taxonomy Regulation, as transitional activities for climate mitigation, to move away from coal to renewables.

The Commission controversially included nuclear and gas in the so-called EU Taxonomy for green investment, against the explicit advice of its own science experts.

The inclusion of gas and nuclear has been widely seen as a compromise pushed through by an alliance of French pro-nuclear forces and mainly eastern European countries wanting to incentivise EU investments in gas infrastructure.

MEPs disagreed with the Commission’s use of the delegated act, a non-legislative procedure that excluded the European Parliament. “The parliament has been sidelined. The process is at best sloppy, if not undemocratic,” ECON chair Paul Tang (S&D) had said. Green MEP Bas Eickhout has insisted that the inclusion of gas and nuclear “violated the spirit and letter of the [taxonomy]”.

MEPs said they recognised this role by nuclear and fossil gas as transitional fuels, but they disagreed with the Commission’s technical screening standards because they do not respect those for the environmentally sustainable economic activities in the same regulation.

The MEPs also requested that any such new or amended delegated acts, be subject to a public consultation and impact assessments, as they could have significant economic, environmental and social impacts.

The committee resolution will now go for a vote during the European Parliament’s plenary session of 4-7 July 2022. Parliament and Council have until 11 July 2022 to decide whether to veto the Commission’s proposal. If an absolute majority of MEPs, 353, objects to the Commission’s proposal, the Commission will have to withdraw or amend it.

So far the Socialists & Democrats, the Left and the Greens, which together hold 256 seats, have committed to blocking the proposal. But there are also members from Renew and the EPP who will join in the vote.

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