Von Der Leyen's 'mask has slipped' says host
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Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, told a conference last month that the burning of natural gas will provide Europe with a stable source of energy during the transition towards net zero. But the move has been harshly criticised by environmental campaigners who believe the EU ought to entirely distance itself from the burning of fossil fuels. The Commission is now facing increased pressure in light of a leaked document that was reportedly circulated around Brussells in late October.
According to the “non-paper”, which was seen by Express.co.uk, the EU was urged to update its green taxonomy to include both natural gas, during the transition period, as well as nuclear power.
Although the paper’s authors remain unknown, French President Emmanuel Macron has formed a coalition of nations desperate for the Commission to change its stance on nuclear energy.
Europe’s green finance taxonomy is a classification system that outlines a list of “environmentally sustainable economic activities”.
The Commission claims the system creates security for investors and protects private interest “from greenwashing” while allowing companies to become more eco-friendly.
However, the Commission itself has been accused of attempting to greenwash the fossil fuel industry after the “non-paper” was leaked.
Linda Kachler, director of the EU Green Deal Diplomacy at the European Climate Foundation, has shamed the reported attempt to label natural gas green.
She warned the EU risks damaging its reputation in light of the pledges Mrs von der Leyen made at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this week.
She tweeted: “Repeat after me: GAS IS NOT GREEN.
“The Commission, France, Germany and Italy better make that clear!
“Any attempt to label it ‘green’, even in a transitional period, is damaging the EU’s reputation as a credible international leader – in the midst of #COP26.”
The EU’s executive body has committed to slashing greenhouse gasses by 2030, in a step towards reaching full net zero by 2050 – a target adopted by most of the developed world.
COP26: Emmanuel Macron meets Boris Johnson in Glasgow
The bloc said it will attempt to reduce emissions by 55 percent from 1990 levels by the end of 2030, by raising the cost of carbon, taxing polluting fuels and investing in green energy.
Frans Timmermans, the EU’s chief of climate policy, said earlier this summer: “We’re going to ask a lot of our citizens. We’re also going to ask a lot of our industries, but we do it for good cause.
“We do it to give humanity a fighting chance.”
Towards this goal, a coalition of 10 nations has called on the European Commission to accept nuclear energy as an “affordable, stable and independent” option.
Led by the French President, the leaders of 10 countries penned an open letter to the Commission, pleading the case for nuclear power in the wake of Europe’s energy crunch.
Germany in particular, under the leadership of Angela Merkel, has had a history of nuclear scepticism.
Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, Germany said it would stray from nuclear power by 2022 in favour of other carbon-free options.
Ms Kachler said: “Where did it go wrong? France is so obsessed with labelling nuclear as green, that they formed an unholy alliance with Eastern European countries believing gas helps them meet their climate targets.
“Well… and Germany and Italy (?) seem to tacitly agree…”
Express.co.uk has previously asked the European Commission to respond to the criticism surrounding the leaked “non-paper”.
However, a spokesperson said there was “no comment to make” and instead highlighted the role the EU’s green taxonomy has in implementing the European Green Deal.
They said: “The EU taxonomy will provide companies, investors and policymakers with clear definitions for which economic activities can be considered environmentally sustainable.
“In this way, it should create security for investors, protect private investors from greenwashing, guide companies on how to become more climate-friendly, mitigate market fragmentation and help shift investments where they are most needed.
“As announced in April, the Commission will adopt a complementary Climate Taxonomy Delegated Act covering activities not yet covered in the first EU Taxonomy Climate Delegated Act, notably certain energy sectors, in line with the requirements of the Taxonomy Regulation.
“The Delegated Act will cover nuclear energy activities, subject to and consistent with the specific expert review process that the Commission set out for this purpose.
“This complementary Delegated Act will cover natural gas and related technologies as transitional activities in as far as they fall within the limits of Article 10(2) of the EU Taxonomy Regulation. The merits of a sunset clause for transitional activities is being considered in this context.
“The Commission will adopt the complementary Climate Delegated Act in the near future. Commissioner McGuinness said on 27 October that the objective is for this to be done by the end of the year.
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