11 Jan 2022, 13:40
Benjamin Wehrmann

Environment minister says Germany prepares “clear no” on nuclear in EU taxonomy

ARD / Clean Energy Wire

The new German environment minister, Steffi Lemke from the Green Party, has said she will work towards a clear rejection by Germany of the inclusion of nuclear power in the EU taxonomy on sustainable investments, as part of the goverment's opinion on a draft by the European Commission. In an interview with public broadcaster ARD, Lemke said the government would send its contribution in the next days that contains “a clear no” regarding the European Commission’s proposal to include nuclear power in the taxonomy. “This is the government’s joint position,” Lemke said. Including nuclear would mean that the taxonomy failed at its core objective of providing a sustainable framework for investments of the future. “The sustainability label would then not mean that it guarantees sustainability,” she said. However, the ball would ultimately be in the European Commission’s court and the German government could of course not override the decision by itself, Lemke added. But even if Germany has little influence on the outcome, “a clear public position” that rejects nuclear power would be an important statement that also is backed by chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and finance minister Christian Lindner (FDP). Asked about the inclusion of gas, Lemke said the technology "does not need this sustainability label which is targeted at long-term developments", even as natural gas would be needed for a transition period.
An alliance of NGOs in Germany, meanwhile, has collected over 220,000 signatures within four days to protest against the inclusion of nuclear power as well as natural gas in the taxonomy. The alliance that includes Environmental Action Germany (DUH), Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND), Bürgerbewegung Finanzwende, Greenpeace, Nabu and others said the German government should not only reject the proposal but also seek legal action against it if necessary. “If climate-damaging and high-risk energy technologies are classified as sustainable, the entire label loses its meaning – which would be a very worrying signal to international observers,” the NGOs said.
Municipal utility association VKU, on the other hand, said the inclusion of natural gas as a bridge technology is justified. “Those who think the EU taxonomy is about to permanently label natural gas as sustainable are misled,” VKU head Ingbert Liebing said. New investments in gas infrastructure would make possible its later conversion for use with climate-neutral green hydrogen. Such investments are also needed to allow the transition away from coal towards an energy system fully based on renewables. “Those who bluntly criticise this should present alternative paths towards a secure and clean energy supply,” he added. 

The European Commission has proposed including investments in nuclear power as well as in certain natural gas projects in the taxonomy. The inclusion of nuclear has been advocated by France, whereas German politicians insisted that gas should be labelled sustainable as long as it can later be converted to green hydrogen use. EU member states can comment on the proposal until 21 January, before the Commission might revise its proposal and passes it on to the member states and the EU parliament for approval. At the final vote in the EU Council, Germany might ultimately abstain from a decision, news agency Reuters reported.

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