Lawmakers in two European Parliament committees objected to the inclusion of nuclear and gas in the bloc’s list of environmentally sustainable economic activities yesterday, with the resolution scheduled for a plenary vote in early July.
Parliament and the EU Council have until 11 July to decide their stance on the European Commission’s proposal to include nuclear and gas in the green taxonomy, which has been criticised as unhelpful and unnecessary, among other things.
In a joint meeting yesterday, MEPs in the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee and the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee voted 76 to 62, with four abstentions, to adopt an objection to the Commission’s proposal.
According to a press statement from the Parliament, the MEPs consider that the technical screening standards proposed by the Commission for nuclear and gas do not respect the criteria for green activities set out in the taxonomy regulation itself.
The resolution adopted by MEPs also requests that any new or amended delegated acts should be subject to a public consultation and impact assessments.
The next step is for the full Parliament to vote on the resolution during a plenary session from 4-7 July. It would need to be backed by an absolute majority of MEPs (353) for the EU executive to have to either withdraw it or amend it.
For the Council to reject the Commission’s proposal, which is in the form of a “complementary delegated act”, at least 20 member states representing at least 65% of the EU population would need to object.
Ariadna Rodrigo, Greenpeace EU sustainable finance campaigner, told IPE that the bar is indeed very high for the Parliament plenary to send the European Commission back to the drawing board over its proposal, but that the same was said about this week’s committee vote, and in the end an absolute majority of MEPs there voted to block the greenwashing of gas and nuclear.
“These committees have shown that significant numbers of MEPs still believe that the taxonomy should be about science, clarity and transparency and not about politics, confusion and favours,” she said. “Looking ahead to the plenary vote, it’s impossible for MEPs to ignore just how broad the backlash against this dirty deal is.”
The Commission announced its proposal for including nuclear and gas in the taxonomy on new year’s eve, initially giving its sustainable finance advisory only until 12 January to provide feedback. After the deadline was extended, the Platform on Sustainable Finance (PSF) delivered its judgement that the Commission’s proposal was not in line with the taxonomy rules.
Addressing a public hearing of the two parliamentary committees last month, Hartwig Liersch, chief investment officer of Dutch pension fund PMT, said the EU taxonomy “must be clear, research-based and, most importantly, not raise any serious doubts” as well as “provide a common language” for communication with all stakeholders, including investee companies, NGOs and pension scheme members.
“Unfortunately the complementary delegated act is not helpful in this respect,” he said, saying that natural gas and nuclear energy could be considered part of an “amber category” that should be added to the taxonomy framework to address the reality of there being transitions to be made.
The Commission’s advisory group has recommended that the environmental taxonomy be extended to add such an amber category as well as a “red” category for harmful economic activities.