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The European Parliament agreed Wednesday to approve legislation that would put some gas and nuclear energy-related activities on the list of ecologically sustainable activities maintained by the European Union (EU). This addition, subject to tight requirements, intends to allow EU countries to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

The EU enacted the Taxonomy Regulation in 2020, which established a categorization system for ecologically friendly activities. The rule outlines six environmental goals: climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, sustainable use and conservation of water and marine resources, transition to a circular economy, pollution prevention and control, and biodiversity and ecosystem protection and restoration. Environmentally sustainable activities contribute “substantially” to one or more of these aims while without damaging any of them.

The taxonomy aims to direct private investment toward more sustainable enterprises, rather than dictating which energy sources EU member states should employ.

In 2021, the European Commission (EC) issued the first Delegated Regulation, which established specific requirements for ecologically friendly operations in areas such as solar, wind, ocean, geothermal, bioenergy, and hydropower. However, since a scientific review of the consequences of nuclear power was continuing at the time, the EC omitted nuclear power from the 2021 legislation. Similarly, gas power was ruled out because “further reflection on how to address the role of gas in the decarbonisation of the [EU’s] economy was required.”

In light of a comprehensive scientific investigation by the EC’s Joint Research Centre, the EC submitted a Complementary Delegated Regulation covering these two sectors on February 2. While noting that nuclear energy activities were low-carbon and part of many EU members’ efforts to decarbonize by 2050, the text set out “clear and strict conditions” under which certain nuclear and gas energy-related activities could be added to the list of activities in the first Delegated Regulation as “transitional activities.”

Contributing to the “transition to climate neutrality,” meeting “nuclear and environmental safety requirements” (for nuclear), and contributing to the “transition from coal to renewables” are among the prerequisites (for gas). Furthermore, the rule requires information to enable investors to make informed decisions regarding investments involving gas or nuclear activity.

The European Parliament and Council had four months to veto the legislation. This requires at least 20 EU members representing at least 65 percent of the EU population to vote against the legislation in the Council, and at least 353 of the 705 members in the European Parliament to vote against it. Because neither the European Parliament nor the Council have rejected the law, it will take effect on January 1, 2023.

The EC praised the latter’s decision not to reject the rule, calling it a validation of the EC’s “pragmatic and realistic approach” to climate neutrality.

Source: Jurist

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