Germany’s acting environment and nuclear safety minister, Svenja Schulze, reiterated her opposition to nuclear power’s inclusion in the EU’s green finance taxonomy, saying the upcoming government coalition refuses being placed in front of a fait accompli.
The European Commission is expected to table in the coming weeks a new set of implementing rules – or delegated act in EU jargon – that will clarify the status of nuclear and gas under the EU’s green finance taxonomy.
But according to Schulze, the future German government parties are becoming increasingly irritated by the move as they are still stuck in negotiations over the formation of a “traffic light” coalition between the social democrat party (SPD), the Greens and the Liberals (FDP).
“We don’t want nuclear energy, we don’t consider it sustainable, and we don’t want the EU to support it either,” Schulze told the newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe on Monday (8 November).
The German position on this is clear, and “we are not the only ones who see it that way,” Schulze said. According to her, no decision has been made on nuclear, “even if France is currently putting forward its interests very loudly”.
According to Schulze, nuclear power is not a solution in the fight against climate change, because it takes too long to build.
“Building nuclear power plants are far too expensive and take far too long for climate protection,” the minister said.
“Suppose we decided to go back to nuclear power after all. You find a community that wants a nuclear power plant, you apply for the permits, you open up a major social conflict and then you build – there we are after 2045 until the thing is up. That does nothing for the climate.”
She then reminded why Germany had decided to phase out nuclear power. “There were two major accidents, Chernobyl and Fukushima. We made a conscious decision not to do that anymore because it’s too dangerous in a densely populated country like Germany.”
Schulze’s party, the SPD, is in a awkward position over the EU’s green finance taxonomy. The party is committed to fossil gas in order to replace nuclear power, which has pushed up the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.
SPD representatives have pushed for the inclusion of gas in the EU’s green finance taxonomy as a result while vehemently opposing nuclear, which emits nearly zero carbon and is increasingly seen as an ally in the fight against climate change.
Schulze has been minister on behalf of the SPD for the last four years. Her party came out first in the September general election and is currently negotiating a three-way coalition agreement with the Greens and the business-friendly liberal FDP.
As SPD representative, she is currently among the negotiators in the coalition working group on climate and energy.
The Greens have recently hit the brakes on the talks, partly because of the SPD’s commitment to gas and what they see as insufficient concessions on climate policy and the country’s coal phase-out.
The formation of a new government may now be delayed as a result and could happen well after the Commission presents its taxonomy delegated act.
France has mounted a diplomatic offensive over the past months in the hope of convincing other EU states that nuclear power should be part of the taxonomy.
At a recent meeting of EU energy ministers, 12 countries rallied behind the inclusion of nuclear power in the bloc’s green finance rules, including the Netherlands and Sweden. Other backers of nuclear power include pro-gas states in central and eastern Europe such as Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Romania.
But for the German Greens, the taxonomy is not the right place to deal with gas and nuclear.
Sven Giegold, one of the Green negotiators in the coalition talks, acknowledged that that Germany will need “small volumes” of additional gas capacity in order to “stabilise” renewable power on the electricity grid and compensate for the phase out of nuclear power.
He said those issues can be addressed outside the EU’s green finance rulebook. “A taxonomy including nuclear and fossil gas will turn the effort of making Europe the leading market for green finance into a Europe as the leading joke instead,” Giegold told EURACTIV in a recent interview.
To reject a delegated act, Germany would have to build a qualified majority in the Council of the EU, with a minimum of 15 EU countries comprising 65% of the bloc’s population. Getting such a broad majority will be very challenging for any EU government.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]