Investment plan

EU denies attempting to ‘bury’ its green investment plan with the December 31 publication

Hoses are pictured at a gas compressor station in Mallnow, Germany on November 1, 2021. REUTERS / Hannibal Hanschke

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BRUSSELS, Jan. 3 (Reuters) – The EU executive on Monday rejected suggestions it had waited until New Year’s Eve to release divisive proposals to allow certain natural gas and nuclear energy projects to be labeled as sustainable, saying “we’re not trying to do it on the sly”.

The Commission’s decision to include gas and nuclear investments in European Union rules on the “taxonomy of sustainable finance” was broadcast in a draft proposal late on December 31 and leaked to some media.

“Unless they dig a real hole, the European Commission could not have done more to bury this proposal,” said Henry Eviston, spokesperson for sustainable finance at the European Policy Bureau of the environmental group WWF.

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“When the question was whether renewables are green, the Commission gave citizens three chances to give their opinion. For fossil gas and nuclear, we receive a document written behind closed doors and published on New Year’s Eve “he said in an online post.

European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer told a press conference that the executive had promised to present its position on what was a “very complex and sensitive subject” before the end of the year .

“We weren’t trying to do it on the sly, if you will, by going for December 31,” he said. “I can assure you that our colleagues would have much preferred to relax during the holidays, but they have decided to continue their work during the Christmas holidays to make sure it comes out before the end of the year.”

During months of heated debate over the proposals, some EU countries have said investments in gas are needed to help them move away from the more polluting coal. Others have said that labeling a fossil fuel as green would undermine the credibility of the rules and the EU as it seeks to be a world leader in tackling climate change.

Nuclear power is also a source of division. France, the Czech Republic and Poland are among those who say that no CO2 emissions from nuclear power mean it has an important role to play in the fight against global warming. Austria, Germany and Luxembourg are among those opposed, citing concerns about radioactive waste.

The Commission argues that the inclusion of both gas and nuclear in its taxonomy, intended to guide investment in energy projects, is simply intended to facilitate a transition to fully renewable energy production. The Commission’s draft sets out the conditions under which gas and nuclear power can be used during the transition period.

The Commission will now collect comments on its draft until January 12 and hopes to adopt a final text by the end of the month. After that, the text can be discussed with governments and the EU parliament for up to six months. But it is unlikely to be rejected as it would force 20 of the 27 EU countries, representing 65% of EU citizens, to say ‘no’.

The aim of the agreement is to send a signal to private investors about what the EU considers acceptable “green” and to stop greenwashing, whereby companies or investors exaggerate their green credentials. The deal will also set limits on what EU governments can spend in cash from the EU stimulus fund.

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Additional reporting by Jan Strupczewski; edited by Barbara Lewis and Louise Heavens

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