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EU Commission declares gas, nuclear can be sustainable

EUROPEAN UNION, 2022/EC - AUDIOVISUAL SERVICE/LUKASZ KOBUS
Financial Services, Financial Stability, and Capital Markets Union Commissioner Mairead McGuinness holds a press conference on taxonomy, following the weekly meeting of the von der Leyen Commission in Brussels, February 2, 2022.

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The European Commission presented on February 2 a controversial Taxonomy Complementary Climate Delegated Act on climate change mitigation and adaptation covering certain gas and nuclear activities. The College of Commissioners reached a political agreement on the text, which will be formally adopted once translations are available in all EU languages.

According to the Commission, a great deal of private investment is needed for the EU to become climate neutral by 2050. The EU Taxonomy aims to guide private investment to activities that are needed to achieve climate neutrality.

The Taxonomy classification does not determine whether a certain technology will or will not be part of Member State energy mixes, the Commission said, adding that the objective is to step up the transition, by drawing on all possible solutions to help us reach our climate goals. Taking account of scientific advice and current technological progress, the Commission considers that there is a role for private investment in gas and nuclear activities in the transition. The gas and nuclear activities selected are in line with the EU’s climate and environmental objectives and will allow the EU to accelerate the shift from more polluting activities, such as coal generation, towards a climate-neutral future, mostly based on renewable energy sources, the Commission said.

“Our mission and obligation is climate neutrality. We need to act now if we are to meet our 2030 and 2050 targets,” EU Commission Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People Valdis Dombrovskis said. “Today’s Delegated Act is about accompanying the EU economy in the energy transition, a just transition, as a bridge towards a green energy system based on renewable energy sources. It will accelerate the private investment we need, especially in this decade. With today’s new rules, we are also strengthening transparency and disclosures of information, so that investors make informed decisions, thereby avoiding any greenwashing,” he added.

Financial Services, Financial Stability, and Capital Markets Union Commissioner Mairead McGuinness noted that the EU is committed to achieving climate neutrality by 2050 and the bloc needs to use all the tools at its disposal to get there. “Stepping up private investment in the transition is key to reaching our climate goals. Today we are setting out strict conditions to help mobilise finance to support this transition, away from more harmful energy sources like coal. And we are boosting market transparency so that investors will be able to easily identify gas and nuclear activities in any investment decisions,” she said.

In particular, the Complementary Climate Delegated Act introduces additional economic activities from the energy sector into the EU Taxonomy. The text sets out clear and strict conditions, under Article 10(2) of the Taxonomy Regulation, subject to which certain nuclear and gas activities can be added as transitional activities to those already covered by the first Delegated Act on climate mitigation and adaptation, applicable since 1 January 2022. These stringent conditions are: for both gas and nuclear, that they contribute to the transition to climate neutrality; for nuclear, that it fulfils nuclear and environmental safety requirements; and for gas, that it contributes to the transition from coal to renewables. More specific additional conditions apply for all the above activities and are specified in the Complementary Delegated Act presented on February 2.

Moreover, the Complementary Climate Delegated Act introduces specific disclosure requirements for businesses related to their activities in the gas and nuclear energy sectors. To ensure transparency, the Commission said it has on February 2 amended the Taxonomy Disclosures Delegated Act, so that investors can identify which investment opportunities include gas or nuclear activities and make informed choices.

The text of the Complementary Delegated Act follows expert consultations with the Member States Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, and the Platform on Sustainable Finance. The Commission has also listened to feedback from the European Parliament on the matter. The Commission has carefully examined the input received from those groups and took it into consideration in the text presented today. For instance, as a result of the feedback, targeted adjustments to the technical screening criteria and disclosure and verification requirements were introduced to reinforce their clarity and usability.

Once translated into all official EU languages, the Complementary Delegated Act will be formally transmitted to the co-legislators for their scrutiny.

As for the other Delegated Acts under the Taxonomy Regulation, the European Parliament and the Council (who have delegated the power to the Commission to adopt Delegated Acts under the Taxonomy Regulation) will have four months to scrutinise the document, and, should they find it necessary, to object to it. Both institutions may request an additional two months of scrutiny time. The Council will have the right to object to it by reinforced qualified majority, which means that at least 72% of Member States (i.e. at least 20 Member States) representing at least 65% of the EU population are needed to object to the Delegated Act. The European Parliament can object by a majority of its members voting against in plenary (i.e. at least 353 MEPs).

Once the scrutiny period is over and if neither of the co-legislators objects, the Complementary Delegated Act will enter into force and apply as of January 1, 2023.

The European Green Deal is Europe’s growth strategy that aims to improve the well-being and health of citizens, make Europe climate-neutral by 2050 and protect, conserve and enhance the EU’s natural capital and biodiversity.

The aim of the EU Taxonomy is to help improve the flow of money towards sustainable activities across the European Union. Enabling investors to re-orient investments towards more sustainable technologies and businesses will be key in making Europe climate neutral by 2050. The Taxonomy is a science-based transparency tool for companies and investors. It creates a common language that investors can use when investing in projects and economic activities that have a substantial positive impact on the climate and the environment. It also introduces disclosure obligations on companies and financial market participants.

While the EU has common climate and environmental targets, the national energy mix is a Member State prerogative and varies from one Member State to another, with some still heavily reliant on high carbon-emitting coal. The Taxonomy helps mobilise private investors towards the climate objectives and covers energy activities that reflect different national situations and starting points.

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Co-founder / Director of Energy & Climate Policy and Security at NE Global Media

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