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ENVIRONMENT

EU moves to label nuclear and gas energy as ‘green’

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.

The cooling towers of Civaux nuclear plant are seen over the clouds
The cooling towers of Civaux nuclear plant are seen over the clouds on November 10th, 2021 in Chatellerault, western France. France has led the charge for nuclear power to be included as 'green' energy sources. Guillaume SOUVANT / AFP

The proposal, seen by AFP on Saturday, aims to support the 27-nation bloc’s shift towards a carbon-neutral future and gild its credentials as a global standard-setter for fighting climate change.

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.

The commission confirmed on Saturday that it has started consulting with member states on the proposal where it covers nuclear and gas energy.

“The activities covered in this complementary Delegated Act would accelerate the phase out of more harmful sources, such as coal, and in moving us towards a more low-carbon greener energy mix,” it said.

It said it “considers there is a role for natural gas and nuclear as a means to facilitate the transition towards a predominantly renewable-based future”.

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.

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Germany’s Environment Minister Steffi Lemke told German media group Funke on Saturday that including gas and nuclear would be “a mistake”, arguing that atomic power “can lead to devastating environmental catastrophes”.

Austrian Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler also criticised the project, denouncing nuclear power as “an energy of the past” that was “too expensive and too slow” to combat climate change.

Conditions attached
Fossil-reliant countries in the EU’s east and south have 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.

Its proposal calls for the building of new nuclear power plants to be conditioned on permits given out before 2045, and work to extend the functioning of existing plants would need to be authorised before 2040.

For gas, it said that carbon-emission limits should be set to well below those produced by coal-burning plants, and it should only be a transitionary source with plants needing building permits given before 2031.

The member states and experts consulted by the commission have two weeks to demand revisions to the proposal before a final draft is published in mid-January.

The European Parliament would then have four months to either approve or reject the text with a simple vote.

Member comments

  1. France and Germany did this. Understandable since they failed to build green infrastructure and now they want to ride this out – as a bridge Technology. Also, it is just about investments. Stakeholders could still only invest in real green technologies. We know they wont, a quick dime i guess. Sweden will also ride out their nuclear power plants but as a country should invest more into regenerative power. Otherwise middle and southern sweden will pay the bill for the energy hungry german industry. Btw 1kwh windrotor is only 2500€, suffices for most baseline consumption.

  2. “fossil gas … can contribute to decarbonisation” has to be the most absurd sentence I’ve read in a long time. If it burns fuel that produces CO2, it’s not green.

    By this logic, coal is good for the environment because burning cow patties is worse.

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WILDFIRES

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

Europe's blistering summer may not be over yet, but 2022 is already breaking records, with nearly 660,000 hectares ravaged since January, according to the EU's satellite monitoring service.

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

And while countries on the Mediterranean have normally been the main seats of fires in Europe, this year, other countries are also suffering heavily.

Fires this year have forced people to flee their homes, destroyed buildings and burned forests in EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Some 659,541 hectares (1.6 million acres) have been destroyed so far, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) showed, setting a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006.

Europe has suffered a series of heatwaves, forest fires and historic drought that experts say are being driven by human-induced climate change.

They warn more frequent and longer heatwaves are on the way.

The worst-affected country has been Spain, where fire has destroyed 244,924 hectares, according to EFFIS data.

The EFFIS uses satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

The data comes after CAMS said Friday that 2022 was a record year for wildfire activity in southwestern Europe and warned that a large proportion of western Europe was now in “extreme fire danger”.

“2022 is already a record year, just below 2017,” EFFIS coordinator Jesus San-Miguel said. In 2017, 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13, rising to 988,087 hectares by the end of the year.

“The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all of Europe this year and the overall situation in the region is worrying, while we are still in the middle of the fire season,” he said.

Since 2010, there had been a trend towards more fires in central and northern Europe, with fires in countries that “normally do not experience fires in their territory”, he added.

“The overall fire season in the EU is really driven mainly by countries in the Mediterranean region, except in years like this one, in which fires also happen in central and northern regions,” he added.

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