The last day of 2021 saw the European Commission release a draft proposal to allow gas-fired and nuclear power to be included in the “taxonomy of environmentally sustainable economic activities” under certain circumstances.
Under the proposals, gas firing could be classed as a “sustainable investment” if “the same energy capacity cannot be generated with renewable sources” and if there are plans to switch to renewables or “low carbon gases”; for nuclear, there must be a plan to deal with radioactive waste. Criticism of both the proposals and their timing have come from environmental activists such as the World Wildlife Fund, which described the text as “highly complex and controversial” and claimed that only eight days were given to provide a formal response (the release, on New Year’s Eve, also seemed designed to limit publicity).
France’s European affairs minister, Clément Beaune, described the proposals as technically sound, and pointed to his quite reasonable belief that net-zero could not be achieved without nuclear power. One would think that gas-firing with carbon capture and storage could be considered sustainable; however, gas-firing proponents argued for its inclusion in the taxonomy on the basis that it is a necessary transition fuel. That it is a necessary transition fuel is a reasonable claim, but the very fact that it is described as a ‘transition’ fuel in this context seems to imply that it is not sustainable long-term when unabated. Whether the various supporting countries get the proposals accepted will be interesting, and also consequential for financing future projects.