BRUSSELS. In a landmark vote on Europe’s climate and energy policy, lawmakers on Wednesday said some gas and nuclear energy projects should be considered “green” and should be given access to cheap loans and even government subsidies.
The European Parliament meeting in Strasbourg, France, voted to accept the proposal from the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, with 328 votes in favor of the proposal and 278 against.
Both inside the parliamentary chambers and outside the building, opponents of the policy booed in protest.
The commission’s proposal to designate gas and nuclear energy as “green” is part of a broader new EU law that classifies various types of energy investment as environmentally friendly and sets out detailed rules for assessing them.
The policy, known as “taxonomy,” is intended to end “green laundering,” the widespread practice of mislabeling energy projects as environmentally friendly. It would also give the bloc, which includes 27 industrialized and wealthy countries, extra wiggle room as it struggles to replace Russian energy sources in a bid to punish the Kremlin for its invasion of Ukraine this year.
But the classification remains controversial in environmental circles. Critics of the proposal argue that the attempt to classify gas and nuclear projects as “green” is itself “green laundering” and runs counter to European efforts to cut carbon emissions by 55 percent by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Europe’s decision is likely to reverberate far beyond the region, experts say, as its policies can be taken as a global benchmark and replicated in other parts of the world.
The “green” classification of gas and nuclear energy provides financial incentives for European countries and companies to invest in these energy sources and, critics say, will delay the full transition to much better environmentally friendly renewable sources such as wind and solar power. .
The European Commission has said it is aware that gas and nuclear are not fully in line with environmental targets, but it continues to consider them important for Europe’s transition from its current energy balance to a carbon-neutral future. He calls gas a low-emission fuel, which is true, but only in comparison to coal, which is very polluting.
These goals and the means to achieve them over the next few decades are key to Europe’s efforts to lead global climate policy. But they have also become key to his stance against Russian aggression in Ukraine.
So far, EU countries have banned Russian coal and most of them will gradually stop even importing Russian oil, but they remain particularly dependent on Russian natural gas for electricity and heating.
Russia has used its gas exports to Europe as leverage against the European Union. The bloc is trying to get gas from other sources such as Africa, the Middle East and the US, but it is far from banning Russian imports because it needs it too much.