EU Member States Echo Greta Thunberg and Decry New ‘Green’ Label for Nuclear Power

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 05: Climate activist, Greta Thunberg speaks during the Friday
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

A number of EU member states have echoed Swedish activist Greta Thunberg in their criticism of a new ‘green’ label for nuclear power.

The decision to include nuclear power and gas within the European Union’s new “taxonomy of environmentally sustainable economic activities” has led to uproar amongst some of the bloc’s member states, who have echoed previous criticism aired by the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

Thunberg had previously lambasted the EU’s decision to include the two energy sources under a so-called “amber” category as “fake climate action”.

Although the inclusion of both under the framework comes with caveats — such as nuclear projects being required to demonstrate there are plans in place to safely deal with nuclear waste — a number of EU member states have followed Thunberg’s lead, heavily criticising the decision.

German economic and climate action minister Robert Habeck argued that the plans represented a the watering down of “the good label for sustainability”, according to a report by The Guardian, going on to say that it was “questionable whether this greenwashing will even find acceptance on the financial market”.

Meanwhile, a government spokesman for Germany — which has closed down half of its nuclear reactors as part of phasing out the use of the technology entirely, a move being accelerated by the new left-wing government — also criticised the decision.

“We consider nuclear technology to be dangerous,” the spokesman said according to the Associated Press, going on to say that Germany “expressly rejects” the EU’s decision.

Austria meanwhile has threatened to sue the EU commission over the decision.

“We will examine the current draft carefully and have already commissioned a legal opinion on nuclear power in the taxonomy,” Austrian climate action minister Leonore Gewessler said according to The Guardian. “If these plans are implemented in this way, we will sue.”

However, despite the nation’s threats, any legal action appears unlikely to succeed according to one European lawyer.

Walter Obwexer — dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Innsbruck — said that legal action could only be taken after the measure has been implemented, and either over the commission’s violation of the previous taxonomy ordinance of 2020 or the commission’s excess of discretion, according to a report by Kronen Zeitung.

“Both pleas do not seem to be promising,” the legal expert said.

Other nation-states have seen the development in a more positive light, despite criticism.

Sweden’s Minister for Energy Khashayar Farmanbar believes that there are situations where nuclear could be seen as sustainable, saying the technology already plays an important part in the country.

“There are situations where it can be sustainable, if you compare with what you would otherwise use, how you have obtained the fuel, uranium, and how to store the waste,” Farmanbar said according to state-broadcaster SVT. “Depending on those factors, it can be sustainable in some countries, says Khashayar Farmanbar.”

The decision has meanwhile been seen as a victory in Poland, with the publication Rzeczpospolita saying that it represents “Brussels bow[ing] to” the eastern member of the bloc.

Long-term nuclear powerhouse France has also been rallying behind the technology, with French President Emmanuel Macron having previously announced a five-year plan to overhaul the country’s nuclear sector.

According to a report by France 24, €30 billion is to be invested in a move towards small, modular nuclear reactors.

While the smaller reactors output far less energy than most custom-built nuclear power stations, the reactors themselves can be mass-produced in a factory to be easily deployed wherever needed, with the publication comparing them to the nuclear equivalent of Ikea furniture.

The publication goes on to say that the move is likely a strategic pivot by France to better deal with competition from China in the nuclear field.

While EU member states are ultimately split on the question of nuclear’s place as a green technology, a number of environmentalist campaigners are staunchly against the move.

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg — who has previously been accused of “anti-democratic” behaviour — has decried the EU’s decision to include nuclear and gas in its taxonomy. calling it “fake climate action”.

“As climate activists have been battling to ensure taxonomy paves the way for real climate action, the “leaders” have been working hard on rebranding fossil gas and nuclear power to “sustainable”, when they are neither sustainable nor green,” reads an opinion piece co-authored by the activist. “This could turn into a real life climate-nightmare.”

“We are living in times of mounting crises, but especially because of that there is no space for cowardly decisions, like allowing for this fake climate action,” the article continues. “There is no wiggle room now for any decision that delays reaching real zero emissions.”

Greenpeace has also attacked the decision, saying that it is “a licence to greenwash”.

“Nuclear power generates high-level radioactive waste, and a commercially viable long-term solution has yet to be found,” the environmental organisation said according to a report by the Irish Examiner. “Fossil gas is already the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions from power generation in Europe. Encouraging investments in fossil gas by giving it a green label will only exacerbate its devastating climate impact.”


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