UN climate conference: five people against nuclear energy

Status: 11.11.2021 6:48 p.m.

Nuclear power as environmentally friendly energy? No, thank you – Germany and four other EU countries made that clear at the UN climate conference in Glasgow. A majority of the EU states, on the other hand, are in favor of nuclear energy.

At the World Climate Conference in Glasgow, Germany and four other countries spoke out against the EU classifying nuclear energy as sustainable. “Atomic energy cannot be a solution to the climate crisis,” said Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD). “It is too risky, too slow and too expensive for the decisive decade in the fight against climate change.” Renewable energies are a good alternative. This position was also shared by Luxembourg, Portugal, Denmark and Austria.

Some states want to classify nuclear power as sustainable

The background to this is a struggle within the EU for the so-called taxonomy – a classification system for sustainable investments. The aim is to give technologies a label as sustainable and harmless, so that financial flows are increasingly directed towards green technologies.

Eight countries around France, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have called on the EU Commission to classify not only nuclear power plants and nuclear waste storage facilities as “green”, but also natural gas power plants. For the fossil fuel natural gas, however, this should only apply in a “transition phase” until 2030 and only for “the most efficient gas-fired power plants”, emphasized the French Ministry of the Environment.

Declaration by the five environment ministers

To counteract this, Schulze published a declaration together with the environment and climate ministers of Austria, Luxembourg, Denmark and Portugal. “The current decade will be crucial for our common path to climate neutrality and an economic system that respects the limits of our planet,” it says. It is therefore crucial that “we have a credible, goal-oriented EU taxonomy that takes into account the sustainability of a form of energy over its entire life cycle,” added the signatories with a view to the radioactive waste generated by the use of nuclear power.

Every EU country has the “sovereign right” to decide for or against nuclear power. Including this form of energy in the EU taxonomy would, however, “permanently damage its integrity, credibility and usefulness”.

Indirectly, legal action is threatened

The signatories of the declaration warned of the loss of confidence of savers and investors if plants advertised as “sustainable” co-financed nuclear power. The EU Commission is called upon “not to jeopardize the courageous path to make the EU the world’s leading market for sustainable finance”.

In a legal opinion commissioned by the Federal Environment Ministry, it is said that recognition of nuclear energy as “green” would be “open to challenge before the EU courts”. In plain language: Berlin and Vienna threaten indirectly with a lawsuit if the EU Commission gives in to France and the other nuclear proponents.

“Strong Alliance” against nuclear power

The Austrian Environment and Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler called her alliance with Germany and others against nuclear power in the EU taxonomy a “strong alliance”. The European Union must “name dirty and risky energies for what they are”, she called in Glasgow. “Just because something is less bad doesn’t mean it’s an option.”

Luxembourg Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg said the “high risk technology” nuclear power could not be classified as green or sustainable. It is not only too risky, but also too expensive.

Greenpeace sees a strong signal

Greenpeace managing director Martin Kaiser praised the alliance: “The alliance between Germany, Austria, Luxembourg and Portugal sends a strong signal to the EU Commission and puts a stop to the green color of nuclear power,” he said. However, “the threat posed by the fossil fuel gas must be recognized” in order not to “put the green energy transition on the back burner”.

According to the responsible EU finance commissioner Mairead McGuinness, the decision on the classification of nuclear power and gas should be made by the end of the year. The member states and the EU Parliament then have two months to raise objections – otherwise the taxonomy comes into force.

A dozen states want to phase out oil and gas

Meanwhile, around a dozen states, led by Denmark and Costa Rica, want to set a good example and decide on a concrete exit from oil and gas. The respective end date should be set in such a way that it is compatible with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. “We are doing this because we think we have to,” said Danish climate minister Dan Jørgensen in Glasgow. “In a 1.5-degree world there is no room for oil and gas.”

In addition to Denmark and Costa Rica, France, Ireland, Sweden, Greenland and the Canadian province of Quebec have joined the alliance. Italy, New Zealand and California also support the coalition’s goals, but are not among the core members who commit to ending the issuance of new licenses for oil and gas production.

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