A battle over EU green taxonomy lasted till the very end, the final vote on the issue in European Parliament. Two energy sources were the main bone of contention – natural gas and nuclear energy.
But what is a taxonomy? Many spoke or wrote about it without basic knowledge about the issue. Taxonomy Regulation, because that’s the official name for it, is an economic classification system, which is supposed to help transform the European Union economy so it to achieve the ambitions of the European Green Deal. That’s the first level of cognition.
Let’s dive deeper. The document consists of 550 pages. The crucial problem that Taxonomy was designed to solve is greenwashing. Taxonomy has to point out what is truly sustainable and what is not. EU wants it to be a beacon for companies and the financial market as to what to invest in. It also suggests which projects the EU would help fund and which would not.
“At the center of the Taxonomy Regulation is the definition of sustainable economic activity. This definition is based on two criteria. An activity must:
1. Contribute to at least one of six environmental objectives listed in the Taxonomy; and
2. Do no significant harm to any of the other objectives, while respecting basic human rights and labor standards.
What are the six Taxonomy objectives?
The six environmental objectives of the Taxonomy are: (1) climate change mitigation, (2) climate change adaptation, (3) sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources, (4) transition to a circular economy, (5) pollution prevention and control, and (6) protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems” – explains S&P Global article.
And now let’s look at the specific chapter, which allows so-called “Enabling&Transitional activities” to be part of Taxonomy Regulation. Those categories normally wouldn’t be included as sustainable, but if they contribute to the overall target of promoting sustainability, they can be added.
“Transitional activities only qualify where the following criteria are met:
- There are no technologically or economically feasible low-carbon alternatives;
- Green House Gas emission levels correspond to the best performance in the sector or industry; and
- The activity does not lead to carbon lock-in or hamper the development and deployment of low-carbon alternatives” – continues David Henry Doyle from S&P Global.
Why this is important? The reason is, of course, gas. If we look closely at what’s inside the Taxonomy Regulation, it becomes clear, that natural gas, as a transitional activity, is allowed to be included. It doesn’t mean that it’s not a fossil fuel, it means that Taxonomy tolerates it as a transitional activity.
Part of the European Parliament wanted to cross out not only natural gas but also nuclear energy. As to the last one, let’s listen to the International Energy Agency chief, a global authority on issues of energy, Fatih Birol. Global nuclear power capacity needs to double by mid-century to reach net-zero emissions targets and help ensure energy security as governments try to reduce their reliance on imported fossil fuels – he said. IEA report released earlier stated that capacity has to rise from 413 GW TO 812 GW by 2050. That, I think, pretty much explains that the aim to throw away nuclear energy from the Taxonomy Regulation was unreasonable.
328 MEPs were for keeping gas and nuclear energy in Taxonomy, 278 against. Among countries, Germany and Austria strongly disagreed to keep those in. The last one even announced legal action in EU court. But for now, gas and nuclear energy stay, which means that energy transition plans are still possible to accomplish.