EU taxonomy plan for nuclear sparks controversy

January 07, 2022

The European Commission is in talks to classify nuclear energy and gas as green investments in its new sustainable taxonomy.

The decision has caused consternation among member states, particularly in Germany and Austria where nuclear power is banned.

If the commission is successful, gas and nuclear energy would be classified as green investments under the EU’s taxonomy system, which forms part of the bloc’s Action Plan on Sustainable Finance.

Under the taxonomy, economic activities are categorised according to their contributions to at least one of six defined environmental objectives.

However, government officials from Germany and Austria have come out against the draft proposals.

Steffi Lemke, Germany’s newly appointed environment minister, said on Twitter that the commission’s intentions to include nuclear energy in the taxonomy was “absolutely wrong”, adding: “It is extremely problematic to forego public consultation. We will now examine the EU template.”

In a statement announcing the consultation, the Commission acknowledged the role of the controversial energy sources as a means of facilitating the transition to a low carbon economy based on renewable energy sources.

Austria has threatened to sue the EU Commission should it decide to move ahead with the plans.

The country’s climate protection minister Leonore Gewessler also took to Twitter to denounce the move.

“We will examine the present draft carefully and have already commissioned a legal opinion on nuclear power in taxonomy,” she stated. “If these plans are implemented in this way, we will sue because nuclear energy is dangerous and not a solution in the fight against the climate crisis.”

Fifteen EU countries, including France, have been pushing for the inclusion of nuclear energy in the EU taxonomy.

Austria banned the use of nuclear energy in the 1970s, while Germany took a similar step to phase out nuclear energy in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011.

Last Updated: 7 January 2022