The European Union countries failed to adopt climate diplomacy conclusions scheduled for Monday due to a developing split over the role of nuclear energy in the green transition, according to EU officials.
The European Commission proposed regulations last week that could allow certain hydrogen produced in nuclear-based energy systems to contribute to EU renewable energy targets, suggesting a triumph for pro-nuclear France.
The debate over nuclear energy has yet to come to an agreement. France and other nations that want greater EU policies to encourage nuclear energy's contribution to reducing CO2 emissions, and those, such as Germany and Spain, who fear that this risks diverting attention away from efforts to achieve higher renewable energy.
France argues that if the EU's ultimate goal is to decarbonize the bloc, nuclear power plants, with their low CO2 emissions, should play an important role alongside renewables.
According to six diplomats, the drive and attempt to reposition nuclear as a green technology is also a strategy to boost Paris' position in receiving cash from the EU's impending major industrial policy.
The argument, which focuses on hydrogen generated by nuclear or renewable energy, has already halted negotiations on new EU renewable energy targets and imperiled a multibillion-euro hydrogen pipeline. Numerous EU officials are afraid that it may spill into other green energy initiatives, potentially delaying legislation required to meet EU climate targets.
"There are outstanding obstacles, but they will be resolved," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said of the climate conclusions on Monday, without specifying what the obstacles were.
The conclusions would outline the EU's diplomatic goals in advance of this year's United Nations climate summit.
The majority of the text, according to EU officials, has been approved, including plans for the EU to rally support for a global vow to phase out fossil fuels ahead of the November U.N. climate summit.
A draft of the conclusions said: "EU energy diplomacy will promote the increasing uptake and system integration of renewable energy, hydrogen and its derivatives."
The draft added that EU diplomacy would also promote "safe and sustainable low-carbon technologies."
Scaling up use, domestic production and imports of emissions-free hydrogen fuel is central to Europe's plans to decarbonise industries such as fertiliser and steelmaking.