Brussels faces backlash and charges of greenwashing after publishing draft proposals on New Year’s Eve
The European Commission is facing a furious backlash over plans to allow gas and nuclear to be labelled as “green” investments, as Germany’s economy minister led the charge against “greenwashing”.
The EU executive was accused of trying to bury the proposals by releasing long-delayed technical rules on its green investment guidebook to diplomats on New Year’s Eve, hours before a deadline expired.
The draft proposals seen by the Guardian would allow gas and nuclear to be included in the EU “taxonomy of environmentally sustainable economic activities”, subject to certain conditions.
The taxonomy is a classification system intended to direct billions to clean-energy projects to meet the EU goal of net zero emissions by 2050.
Robert Habeck, who became the economy and climate action minister last month as part of a traffic-light coalition of Social Democrats, business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) and Greens, said the plans “water down the good label for sustainability”. Habeck, a co-leader of the Greens, also told the German press agency dpa it was “questionable whether this greenwashing will even find acceptance on the financial market”.
Austria’s government repeated its threat to sue the commission if the plans go ahead. Leonore Gewessler, the country’s climate action minister, said neither gas nor nuclear belonged in the taxonomy “because they are harmful to the climate and the environment and destroy the future of our children”.
She added: “We will examine the current draft carefully and have already commissioned a legal opinion on nuclear power in the taxonomy. If these plans are implemented in this way, we will sue.”
She also accused the commission of a “a night and fog operation” in the timing of the publication, a charge echoed by Luxembourg’s energy minister, Claude Turmes, who described the draft as a provocation.
However, opponents are not expected to secure the supermajority needed to block the plans.
France and other pro-nuclear states, such as the Czech Republic and Hungary, support the inclusion of nuclear, while many governments in central, eastern and southern Europe lobbied for gas to be included as a “bridge” fuel.
Germany’s finance minister, Christian Lindner of the FDP, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Sunday that Germany needed gas-fired power plants as a transition technology because it was foregoing coal and nuclear power. “I am grateful that arguments were apparently taken up by the commission,” he said.
The plans have already attracted the ire of Greta Thunberg and other young climate activists, who say this “fake climate action” contradicts the EU’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050.