The Green Brief: An EU taxonomy fairytale

Subscribe to EURACTIV's Green Brief, where you’ll find the latest roundup of news covering energy & environment from across Europe.

Welcome to EURACTIV’s Green Brief. Below you’ll find the latest roundup of news covering energy & environment from across Europe. You can subscribe to the weekly newsletter here.

Once upon a time, in a strange land named Brussels, the great leaders of the European Commission came together to decide what investments should be made to save their world from the great monster Climate Change.

Led by the High Queen of 27 lands, they worked long and hard to decide what belonged in their great green list of investments. Finally, on the eve of the new year, a draft proclamation was sent to the leaders of the 27 lands as well as a council of wise people known as the Platform on Sustainable Finance.

But many suspected some of the 27 leaders, those who had made allegiances with Gas and Nuclear, had the ear of the High Queen more than others. They feared that the scientific basis of the green list would be lost forever.

After a month of debating, the Commission leaders gathered once more and, on the second day of the second month, they made their final declaration. They decreed that Nuclear and Gas would be counted as “green” investments because of their contribution to fighting Climate Change.

Many people decried the decision. Two of the 27 lands, Austria and Luxembourg, even threatened to rebel and take the whole thing to court.

Even three of the Commission’s own – those from Austria, Spain and Portugal – voted against it (Luxembourg’s representative was not present because of the ongoing plague, COVID-19).

But the majority of the European Commission leaders stood firm. Nuclear and Gas would help fight the Climate Change monster and the two technologies would have to meet detailed technical criteria to prove their valour.

While Nuclear and Gas were not perfect, they could “make a contribution” to Europe’s climate goals by replacing more climate-damaging coal, EU commissioner Mairead McGuinness contended, hoping to put the critics to rest.

The decision “may be imperfect, but it is a real solution – it moves us further towards our ultimate goal of carbon neutrality,” she explained, adding, “We’re putting in place strict conditions for the inclusion in the taxonomy. They’re subject to clear limits and phase out periods.”

However, these qualifications did not have to be met at the time of the proclamation. Instead of requiring Nuclear and Gas to prove their mettle in fighting Climate Change straight away, the leaders of the Commission took out their crystal ball and saw a future where these two energies would be more sustainable.

Gas, they foresaw, would switch from its current climate-damaging behaviour and become renewable or low-carbon by 2035. And over 20 years, they were sure it would not exceed an average of 550kgCO2e/kW.

Similarly, Nuclear would switch to “Accident Tolerant fuel” – a formula still in the process of being created and certainly not ready to be used commercially – by 2025. And the nasty high-level waste left at the end of Nuclear’s life would certainly have detailed plans for a disposal facility by 2050.

Apparently, the European Commission’s crystal ball was very accurate because Nuclear and Gas were made eligible for the “green” investment label straight away, even though it was unclear whether they would achieve these requirements for years to come.

And they lived not-so-happily ever after. The End.

– Kira Taylor


This week’s top stories

More stories:


News from the Capitals

WARSAW. Poland to appeal EU’s ‘ridiculous’ fine-deducting decision for Turów. Poland will appeal the European Commission’s decision to deduct money from their EU budget allocation, penalties incurred in the Turów mine dispute with the Czech Republic, the government has announced. Read more.

BELGRADE. Serbian, Bulgarian PMs discuss regional energy market, infrastructure projects. Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and her Bulgarian counterpart Kiril Petkov talked in Belgrade on Tuesday about establishing a joint energy market, which they said would make the economies of both countries more competitive. Read more.

CENTRAL EUROPE. Petrol tourism flourishes in central Europe. After earlier trips to Hungary, Slovaks have been heading to Polish gas stations since February, refuelling several hundred thousand litres of fuel in canisters because of cheaper gas. In response, Poland decided to set up controls on borders. Read more.

DUBLIN. Irish government grant scheme to boost energy efficiency in homes. Ireland’s Environment Minister Eamon Ryan will on Tuesday launch a programme to deliver grants of over €25,000 to households to assist them in installing better insulation. Read more.

LISBON. Portugal’s KEME Energy to invest €5.2m in green hydrogen production in Sines. KEME Energy, a Portuguese company that implements renewable energy self-consumption projects, will invest €5.2 million in installing a green hydrogen production plant in Sines (Setúbal), it was reported on Monday. Read more.

SOFIA. ‘Bulgargaz’ under investigation for market manipulation. The Bulgarian energy regulator has launched an investigation into deals of the state gas supplier ‘Bulgargaz’ on the local energy stock exchange, which were carried out last week. The investigation seeks to establish whether there were violations of the ban on using inside information, the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission announced on Monday. Read more.

ZAGREB. Croatian government caps fuel prices again. The Croatian government passed a decree setting the highest prices for petroleum products for a litre of Eurosuper95 at 11.37 kuna (€1.516), Eurodiesel for 11.29 kuna (€1.505) and Eurodiesel BS blue for 6.5 kuna (€0.86) per litre, including VAT. Read more.

BELGRADE / WESTERN BALKANS. EIB Group invests €853 million in Western Balkans in 2021. The European Investment Bank Group invested €853 million in the Western Balkans in 2021, supporting sustainable development, green transition, digitisation and small and medium enterprises, it was announced on Monday. Read more. 

VIENNA. Austrian town votes against large photovoltaics park. Residents of Wimpassing have voted against the construction of a 52 hectare solar park as Austria attempts to shed its reliance on Russian gas amid an energy crisis and tensions at the Ukrainian border. Read more.

MADRID. Commission made a ‘big mistake’ labelling nuclear, gas ‘green’, says Spanish minister. The European Commission made a “big mistake” labelling nuclear and gas as “green investments” in Europe, Spain’s Ecological Transition Minister Teresa Ribera has said. Read more.

PRAGUE / WARSAW. Unexpected Poland, Czechia mine deal upsets activists and experts. After Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki unexpectedly arrived in Prague to sign a deal on the Turów coal mine on Thursday, the Czech government praised the long-awaited agreement but law experts and green NGOs warn against a bad deal. Read more.

ZAGREB. Split designated as HQ for Ionian Adriatic Pipeline. The construction of the Ionian-Adriatic Gas Pipeline (IAP) will be led by a project company based in Split and shareholders from four countries through which the pipeline passes or is used, EURACTIV’s partner Jutarnji list has reported. Read more.

VIENNA. Austria, Luxembourg to take green label for nuclear and gas to EU courts. The EU’s sustainable finance rules presented on Wednesday will award a “green” label to gas and nuclear power, which has prompted Austria and Luxembourg to announce a lawsuit. Read more.

LISBON. Study rules out lithium mining in two areas in northern Portugal, accepts six. A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) carried out in eight geographical areas in northern Portugal with potential for the mining of lithium has excluded two – Arga and Segura – while giving the green light for six others, it was disclosed on Wednesday. Read more.

PRAGUE. Prague welcomes EU green label for gas and nuclear. The Czech government has praised the European Commission’s decision to include gas and nuclear in the EU’s sustainable taxonomy. Prague was fighting for the green label to be applied to gas and nuclear for months and sees the move as a victory of Czech diplomacy. Read more.


News in brief

Far-right snatches control of EU methane legislation. The far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) group in the European Parliament had a surprise victory last week when it won control of drafting the Assembly’s stance on new legislation to reduce climate-killing methane emissions. The Methane Regulation, proposed in December last year, aims to introduce monitoring, leak repairs and bans on venting and flaring to slash methane emissions in the energy sector.

ID’s control of the file could prove a problem as some political groups, including the centrist Renew Europe, have established a strict policy of not engaging with the far-right the so-called “cordon sanitaire”. Those who are working on the topic will still have a chance to individually draft amendments but centrist MEPs will refrain from working directly with ID lawmakers, according to Martin Hojsík, a Slovak MEP from the Renew Europe group.

Other files tabled by the European Commission in December have also been divided up among the European Parliament’s political groups. The revision of the energy performance of buildings directive (EPBD), which aims to drive renovation and bring Europe’s energy-hungry housing stock in line with its climate ambition, will be led by Green MEP Ciarán Cuffe in the energy committee.

Meanwhile, the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) got the directive on common rules for the internal markets in renewable and natural gases and in hydrogen. The EPP got the regulation covering the same topic. (Kira Taylor | EURACTIV.com)

////

Environmental taxes in decline despite potential, warns EEA. The European Environment Agency (EEA) has warned that taxes that put a price on harming the climate are in decline, despite their potential to aid the green transition. The implementation of these environmental taxes at the national, EU and international levels has been very slow, the report warns. Indeed, in the EU, these taxes accounted for 5.9% of total taxes in 2019, a drop from 6.6% in 2002.

Reviewing climate legislation, like the emission trading scheme and energy taxation directive could create higher revenues in the coming decade. However, the EEA warns that achieving Europe’s climate goals could lead to a drop in revenues unless environmental taxes shift focus from revenue generation to supporting achieving Europe’s climate objectives. Read the full report here. (Kira Taylor | EURACTIV.com)

////

European pact for skills in construction. The EU social partners in the construction industry published the Pact for Skills in Construction, an initiative promoted by the European Commission in the framework of the “EU Skills Agenda”.

The initiative comes as the European Union pushes a “renovation wave” with the objective of doubling the annual rate of building renovation in the next ten years, in an effort to cut energy consumption and support the EU’s climate goals. 

The Pact for Skills in Construction was presented on 8 February during the EU Industry Days 2022. It was signed by the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) and the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC), in cooperation with the European Builders Confederation (EBC).

“The construction sector is facing a labour shortage for many years. There is an urgent need to attract more young workers, more female workers, and skilled workers to the sector. The Pact for Skills is an opportunity to achieve it,” said Johan Lindholm, EFBWW President. 

Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, said: “The construction ecosystem relies on well-trained people. New technologies and climate goals mean that workers have to learn and acquire new skills or update them.” (Frédéric Simon | EURACTIV.com) 


Opinions


Upcoming events

9 FEBRUARY. Green steel: CBAM and ETS do their current designs aid EU climate ambitions? Join Maria Elena Scoppio, director of indirect taxation and tax administration at DG TAXUD, Emma Wiesner from the Europe Parliament’s environment committee and Miapetra Kumpula-Natri from the energy committee to discuss the impact of the carbon border levy and the emissions trading scheme on the steel industry. Programme and registration here. (Supported by Eurofer)

22 FEBRUARY. (Re)constructing Europe: What challenges are Member States facing? 

Join Fulvia Raffaelli, head of unit construction at DG Grow, Maria Spyraki from the European Parliament’s energy and environment committees and more to discuss the new economic and environmental challenges for the construction sector, particularly for South-Eastern Europe. Programme and registration here. (Supported by Glavbolgarstroy)

3 MARCH. Efficient district heating systems: How to achieve cost-effective decarbonisation? Join this EURACTIV Virtual Conference to discuss the new definition of efficient district heating systems in the EED proposal, and how stakeholders can best cooperate to achieve cost-effective decarbonisation. Speakers tbc. Programme and registration here. (Supported by PGE)


On our radar

23 FEBRUARY. Proposal on sustainable corporate governance

2 MARCH. Communication on energy.

17 MARCH. Environment Council.

23 MARCH. Nature protection package: Revision of rules around sustainable use of pesticides and nature restoration targets.

30 MARCH. Circular economy package 1:

  • Sustainable products policy initiative, including a revision of the Ecodesign Directive
  • Review of the Construction Product Regulation
  • Proposal for a Regulation on substantiating environmental claims using the Product/ Organisation Environmental Footprint methods (green claims)
  • Strategy on sustainable textiles
  • Empowering consumers for the green transition 

5 APRIL. Emissions and pollutants package:

  • Revision of the Industrial Emissions Directive and update of the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR)
  • Review of EU rules on fluorinated greenhouse gases
  • Regulation on substances that deplete the ozone layer
  • Development of post-Euro 6/VI emission standards for cars, vans, lorries and buses 

3 MAY. International partnerships and energy package:

  • New strategy on international energy engagement
  • Joint Communication on a partnership with the Gulf

25-27 MAY. G7 meeting of climate and energy ministers.

7 JUNE. Joint Communication on international ocean governance

27 JUNE. Energy Council.

28 JUNE. Environment Council.

20 JULY. Circular Economy Package 2:

  • Policy framework for bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics
  • Review of the Packaging and packaging waste directive to reinforce the essential requirements for packaging and establish EU level packaging waste prevention measures and targets
  • Review of the Urban Wastewater Treatment directive

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe