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.
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.
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.
Fossil-reliant countries in the EU’s east and south have also 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.
And for gas, carbon-emission limits should be set to well below those produced by coal-burning plants, it said.
The EU’s internal market commissioner Thierry Breton said last month that the European Union needed to be “pragmatic”.
He said the bloc will need to double its overall electricity production over the next three decades and that “is simply not possible without nuclear power”.