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ENVIRONMENT

EU moves to label nuclear and gas energy as ‘green’

The EU is planning to label energy from nuclear power and natural gas as "green" sources for investment despite internal disagreement over whether they truly qualify as sustainable options.

The cooling towers of Civaux nuclear plant are seen over the clouds
The cooling towers of Civaux nuclear plant are seen over the clouds on November 10th, 2021 in Chatellerault, western France. France has led the charge for nuclear power to be included as 'green' energy sources. Guillaume SOUVANT / AFP

The proposal, seen by AFP on Saturday, aims to support the 27-nation bloc’s shift towards a carbon-neutral future and gild its credentials as a global standard-setter for fighting climate change.

But the fact the European Commission quietly distributed the text to member states late Friday, in the final hours of 2021 after the much-delayed document had been twice promised earlier in the year, highlighted the rocky road to draft it.

If a majority of member states back it, it will become EU law, coming into effect from 2023.

The commission confirmed on Saturday that it has started consulting with member states on the proposal where it covers nuclear and gas energy.

“The activities covered in this complementary Delegated Act would accelerate the phase out of more harmful sources, such as coal, and in moving us towards a more low-carbon greener energy mix,” it said.

It said it “considers there is a role for natural gas and nuclear as a means to facilitate the transition towards a predominantly renewable-based future”.

France has led the charge for nuclear power — its main energy source — to be included, despite robust opposition from Austria and scepticism from Germany, which is in the process of shutting all its nuclear plants.

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Germany’s Environment Minister Steffi Lemke told German media group Funke on Saturday that including gas and nuclear would be “a mistake”, arguing that atomic power “can lead to devastating environmental catastrophes”.

Austrian Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler also criticised the project, denouncing nuclear power as “an energy of the past” that was “too expensive and too slow” to combat climate change.

Conditions attached
Fossil-reliant countries in the EU’s east and south have defended the use of natural gas, at least as a transitional source, even though it still produces significant greenhouse emissions.

“It is necessary to recognise that the fossil gas and nuclear energy sectors can contribute to the decarbonisation of the Union’s economy,” the commission proposal says.

It added that, for nuclear power, appropriate measures should be put in place for radioactive waste management and disposal.

Its proposal calls for the building of new nuclear power plants to be conditioned on permits given out before 2045, and work to extend the functioning of existing plants would need to be authorised before 2040.

For gas, it said that carbon-emission limits should be set to well below those produced by coal-burning plants, and it should only be a transitionary source with plants needing building permits given before 2031.

The member states and experts consulted by the commission have two weeks to demand revisions to the proposal before a final draft is published in mid-January.

The European Parliament would then have four months to either approve or reject the text with a simple vote.

Member comments

  1. France and Germany did this. Understandable since they failed to build green infrastructure and now they want to ride this out – as a bridge Technology. Also, it is just about investments. Stakeholders could still only invest in real green technologies. We know they wont, a quick dime i guess. Sweden will also ride out their nuclear power plants but as a country should invest more into regenerative power. Otherwise middle and southern sweden will pay the bill for the energy hungry german industry. Btw 1kwh windrotor is only 2500€, suffices for most baseline consumption.

  2. “fossil gas … can contribute to decarbonisation” has to be the most absurd sentence I’ve read in a long time. If it burns fuel that produces CO2, it’s not green.

    By this logic, coal is good for the environment because burning cow patties is worse.

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MONEY

EXPLAINED: What is Italy doing to cut the rising cost of living?

Amid soaring inflation and price rises, the Italian government has announced new measures to help families and businesses keep costs down. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: What is Italy doing to cut the rising cost of living?

Italy approved a much-anticipated aid decree on Thursday, August 4th, bringing a new round of state funding intended to tackle the country’s most critical issues: from the rising cost of living and sky-high inflation to the energy and supply crisis. 

READ ALSO: Fuel tax cut and help with energy bills: Italy approves inflation aid package

The ‘aiuti bis’ aid package, worth around 17 billion euros ($17.4 billion), likely marks the last major act by outgoing prime minister Mario Draghi before an early general election next month.

The funding is seen as badly needed after inflation hit 8 percent in Italy in June – the most severe spike the country has experienced since 1976.

After weeks of speculation about exactly which measures may or may not be included in the decree, we now know it contains everything from an extension to the fuel duty cut to more help with energy bills for those on lower incomes.

Here’s what you need to know about the latest measures intended to keep the cost of living under control.

Extension to fuel duty cut 

The current discount on fuel duties is to be extended again to September 20th, though the value of the discount will drop from 30 to 25 cents. 

The discount was recently extended to August 21st but the government decided to further prolong the incentive in a bid to ease the blow that record fuel prices have dealt to consumers and businesses.

The cut was initially introduced as far back as March when the average prices at the pump for petrol and diesel both exceeded the two-euro mark.

Help with energy bills

Measures introduced in the first half of the year to help lower-income households and vulnerable people pay rising energy bills will be extended under the new decree.

It extends an existing government discount on gas and electricity bills for a further three months, until the end of 2022, as well as reducing system charges.

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Italy’s tax on the ‘excess profits’ of energy companies has meanwhile been extended to June 2023 after the government reportedly received fewer payments than expected.

Tax cut for employees

Workers earning a gross income of under €35,000 are eligible for a two percent tax saving, amounting to a small monthly ‘pay rise’ until the end of this year.

“Already in the budget law we reduced social contributions by 0.8 percent; for the second half of the year this reduction goes up to 2 percent, as we’re now adding 1.2 percent”, said Economy Minister Daniele Franco at a press conference on Thursday.

As the tax relief lasts until the end of the calendar year for a six-month period, the July deduction will be retroactive.

New aid measures announced on Thursday are hoped to boost Italy’s consumer spending power as the cost of everyday goods rises. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

Those earning €35,000 can expect to save around a further €30 per month (1.2 percent of a monthly salary of €2,692 – most Italian salaries are paid out over 13 rather than 12 months to give employees a tredicesima Christmas bonus).

To find out how this may apply to you, it’s advisable to speak to an accountant or your local Italian tax agency (Agenzie delle entrate) office.

More funding for mental health treatment

The new decree will also enhance the existing ‘psychologist bonus’ (bonus psicologo) by allocating an additional 15 million euros to the measure. This will bring the total amount of funds available for the bonus to 25 million euros. 

The bonus was officially introduced at the end of July to help make mental health services more affordable, amid a pandemic-induced crisis in Italy.

All individuals with an Isee (a calculation of relative household income and wealth) lower than 50,000 euros will be eligible to receive a 600-euro voucher, which they’ll be able to use when seeing professionals listed on Italy’s official register of psychologists.

See more information about claiming the bonus in a separate article here.

Discount on public transport tickets

The government will allocate a total of 101 million euros to funding its ‘transport bonus’ (bonus trasporti); 22 million more than the original amount.

The bonus takes the form of a one-time 60-euro discount to be used on the purchase of monthly or yearly tickets for local transport services.

It will be available from September 2022 to all pensioners, students, and employees with an Isee of up to 35,000 euros.

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