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08 Jul 2022, 12:16
Julian Wettengel

Nuclear energy “not green”, gas needed for transition, says Germany’s Scholz

ZDF / Clean Energy Wire

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has criticised the decision to include nuclear energy in the EU taxonomy for sustainable investments, but emphasised that Germany would need natural gas for a transitional period to get to climate neutrality by 2045. “In Germany we are in complete agreement that nuclear energy is not green,” said Scholz in the television talk show “Maybrit Illner” by public broadcaster ZDF. The chancellor said that the government’s promise to make Germany climate neutral by 2045 had always included the statement that the country would need gas for the transition, when exiting coal and nuclear energy. Scholz remembered how his government had rejected the inclusion of nuclear in the taxonomy earlier this year. “I always thought it was wrong,” said Scholz, and indicated that the government had also influenced the European Commission’s proposal. “It was at the turn of the year that the European Commission could have decided something without us being able to stop it. Then we made sure that it still fit us to some extent.”

The EU taxonomy – a system that defines companies’ activities as sustainable along several key objectives, including climate change mitigation – is a tool to steer billions of euros of private investments to help decarbonise the bloc’s economies. Germany’s rejection of the taxonomy decision on nuclear and gas was largely symbolic because there had not been a  majority vote amongst member states to prevent it. The European Commission’s proposal to include both nuclear and gas – subject to wide-spread criticismwas seen as a compromise intended to placate both France and Germany; previously, German politicians had argued for the inclusion of gas. The European Parliament this week voted in favour of the inclusion of nuclear and gas, and member states like Austria have said they would challenge it in court.

Student intergenerational justice activist Rifka Lambrecht confronted Scholz with criticism on German plans to support gas exploration in countries like Senegal. Scholz replied that if the country wanted to get out of Russian gas, supplies had to come from elsewhere. In addition, he said it would be “idiosyncratic” to tell countries in Africa how they should organise their way to climate neutrality. With Germany betting on gas for the transition, “it is very difficult to tell countries – which now get their energy from coal – not to do it with gas in the meantime,” said Scholz.

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