Nuclear and gas projects now considered “green” in Europe

What will this mean for the region's goals to slash carbon emissions?
Loukia Papadopoulos

In an unexpected move, on Wednesday, European lawmakers voted to declare some gas and nuclear energy projects “green.” They also agreed that these projects should receive access to cheap loans and even state subsidies, according to a report by The New York Times.

328 for, 278 against

The proposal was made by the European Commission and the lawmakers present at the European Parliament meeting in Strasbourg, France, voted in favor of accepting it, with 328 votes backing the proposal and 278 against it. This decision was much to the dismay of detractors who argue that these projects are not environmentally friendly.

The policy, known as the “taxonomy,” will give the bloc, a group of 27 industrialized and wealthy nations, support as it struggles to replace Russian energy sources in order to penalize the Kremlin for its invasion of Ukraine. It will also aim to thwart "greenwashing", the practice of labeling projects green that are not truly so.

Detractors argue that gas and nuclear projects are not truly environmentally friendly and do not support Europe's ambitious goals to cut carbon emissions by 55 percent by 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The problem lies more with the gas projects than with the nuclear power ones.

Earlier this year, in February of 2022, a study was released that indicated that nuclear power could be a green source of energy, one that could help nations reach zero emissions.

“Under strict greenhouse gas emission controls, reliable power generation provided by nuclear power has a lot of potential value in the electricity grid for most nations," said in statement study author Lei Duan of the Carnegie’s Department of Global Ecology. “Places with poor wind resources can benefit from nuclear earlier in the path to zero emissions, whereas places with very good wind resources would only need it to get rid of the last traces of carbon emissions.”

Environmentalists have even gone on record to support nuclear energy. However, no research has produced results that indicate that gas may be green as it is highly polluting.

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Influencing other regions

This new European decision is an important one as it could influence other regions. 

The European Commission has acknowledged that gas and nuclear are not perfectly aligned with its environmental goals, but states that they are a crucial step in Europe’s transition from its current energy mix toward a carbon-neutral future. It also points to the fact that gas has been labeled a “low emission” fuel.

This last statement is true but only if compared to coal, which is extremely polluting. The question that looms now is whether this new decision will support the region in limiting the planet's warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, by 2100. 

If we don't achieve this lofty goal, the repercussions will be devastating worldwide. Can we really afford to continue using gas? 

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