As the European Commission is expected to present the rules for sustainable finance via the EU taxonomy this year, the largest EU state and its future chancellor is more committed to gas than ever.
The role of gas in the energy mix is contentious, as switching from coal to gas is considered “low hanging fruit” that allows for fast progress on cutting carbon emissions. Yet critics fear that relying on gas will “lock in” fossil fuel energy generation.
Germany, whose last nuclear reactors will be turned off by the end of 2022, is one of the EU countries especially reliant on gas power. The country’s renewable expansion has been very slow-moving in past years.
The German energy transition would focus on renewables, but “using gas would also be part of it for a long time,” meaning that Germany would have to “build new gas-fired power plants,” explained future German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Gas power plants “are the prerequisite for us to be able to cope with this period of change,” Scholz told attendees of a congress of the influential mining, chemicals and energy trade union IG BCE on 27 October.
EURACTIV had previously reported from Berlin that the German social democrats SPD favour the inclusion of gas in the EU’s sustainable finance taxonomy.
As the German parties are currently negotiating a so-called “traffic light” coalition between the social democrats, the Greens and the business-friendly liberal FDP, the role of gas has been a sticking point between the SPD and the Greens thus far.
“Nuclear energy and gas must be taken out of the taxonomy,” Ingrid Nestle, the Greens spokesperson for energy, had told EURACTIV in early October.
Greens’ chief Annalena Baerbock spoke after Scholz at the event, suggesting the parties may have agreed to the role of gas following their exploratory talks in the past weeks.
“Our clear message: gas is needed for a bridge, but all technology that is now being built must be hydrogen-ready,” explained Baerbock, following Scholz’s speech.
Her readiness to accept gas as a transition fuel is a clear shift of the German Greens’ position, which may imply a compromise to accept gas as a lesser evil in exchange for concerted climate action at the EU level.
The potential “traffic light” coalition had agreed to be “the driving force behind the European Green Deal,” Baerbock noted.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]