The European Parliament voted on Wednesday to label investment in gas and nuclear facilities as environment-friendly, in a bid to help the bloc carry out its climate pledge by facilitating private investment in power plants.
The EU Taxonomy Regulation, established in 2020, is designed to redirect financial flow toward sustainable projects. Earlier this year, the European Commission proposed to include natural gas and nuclear energy in the guideline, which has triggered divisions among member states.
Gas is a fossil fuel that emits greenhouse gases, but significantly less than coal, and several EU countries see it as a temporary substitute for the dirtier fuel.
Nuclear energy is free from carbon dioxide emission but produces radioactive waste. Nuclear supporters, such as France, argue that it is essential for meeting emissions-cutting targets, while opponents raise worries about waste management.
Out of the 705 legislators, 639 were present on the day of vote. Among them, 328 backed the Commission’s gas and nuclear proposals, with 278 voting to block the plan, and 33 abstained.
The decision clears the way for the proposal to become law, unless 20 of the bloc’s 27 member states decide to oppose it.
The new guidelines will include gas and nuclear power stations in the bloc’s Taxonomy rulebook beginning in 2023, allowing investors to identify and promote green investments in them.
However, climate activists slammed the lawmakers’ decision, with Greenpeace saying it would make a legal challenge. Anders Schelde, chief investment officer at Danish pension fund AkademikerPension, argued that this move may undermine the EU’s leadership position on climate action.
Industry organizations applauded the result. According to Ingbert Liebing, managing director of Germany’s local utility association VKU, the move is an important sign of the role of natural gas as a bridge to achieve climate goals.