EU countries at odds over green investment label for nuclear energy

2 minute read

Austria's Chancellor Karl Nehammer attends an EU Summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Belgium, December 16, 2021. REUTERS/Johanna Geron/Pool

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BRUSSELS, Dec 16 (Reuters) - European Union countries disagreed ahead of a summit on Thursday over whether the bloc should label nuclear energy as a climate-friendly investment, as leaders await a decision on the matter from Brussels.

The European Commission is considering whether to include nuclear and natural gas in its "sustainable finance taxonomy", a rulebook that will restrict which activities can be labelled as climate-friendly investments.

"We are against a greenwashing of nuclear energy... We have allies, among them Luxembourg, but of course also powerful opponents who are supporters of nuclear energy," Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer said on his arrival at the summit of EU leaders.

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"Poland very strongly supports the possibility of financing investments in gas and in nuclear power," Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.

"Others have doubts about that and Poland clearly calls for it and I will be saying that strongly today to adopt that in the conclusions," Morawiecki said.

The Commission has said it aims to decide this month on whether nuclear and gas are labelled green, but has struggled to resolve in-fighting between the bloc's countries - including France and Germany, who are split over the fuels.

France, which gets about 70% of its electricity from nuclear energy, is among its strongest supporters, and says the fuel's low CO2 emissions make it vital in the transition to green energy. Germany is among the countries opposed and is phasing out its own nuclear reactors.

Gas is similarly divisive, with countries split between those that say it is needed to help them quit more-polluting coal, and those that say labelling a fossil fuel as a green investment is not credible.

The Commission first proposed its taxonomy rules in November 2020, but delayed a decision on gas after intense lobbying from countries and industry, and said it needed more time to gather expert views on the environmental impact of nuclear waste. read more

The taxonomy does not ban investments in activities not labelled "green". But by limiting the green label to those activities deemed truly climate-friendly, the EU aims to steer cash into low carbon projects and stop companies or investors from making unsubstantiated environmental claims.

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Reporting by Kate Abnett, Philip Blenkinsop, Jan Strupczewski; editing by Barbara Lewis

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