Von der Leyen's EU tenure on knife-edge as huge rift erupts in bloc: 'A step backwards!'


    The Commission, led by President Ursula von der Leyen, wants to declare not just wind and solar energy to be “sustainable”, but also gas and nuclear power – at least for a transitional period as it chases net zero carbon emission goals. This, it said, would make nuclear power plants easier to finance.

    The plan was reportedly aimed to appease the likes of both France and Germany, which have deeply different views on how to power their respective countries.

    However, it has instead caused a massive rift among member states.

    It comes as the EU is facing an ongoing energy crisis after a global shortage in natural gas supply last year saw rising prices and an impact on heavy industry.

    The bloc, along with Germany, is also facing pressure from Russia to approve the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which would channel natural gas directly into the EU, circumventing Ukraine.

    READ MORE: Europe in crisis as energy row risks tearing EU apart

    After domestic politicians from Germany and Austria struck out at the plans, members of the European Parliament are now criticising them in an open letter to the EU Commission, according to German newspaper Der Spiegel.

    In the letter, around 30 MEPs from four different parliamentary groups called for a public consultation on the controversial draft proposal.

    They added: “It is essential that this decision is debated in expert circles without public supervision.”

    The letter went on to criticise the Commission over climate experts having little time to react to the draft.

    They said that the “usefulness and credibility” of the taxonomy was “at stake”, adding: “We find the new draft problematic both from a political and technical point of view”.

    The draft would be a “step backwards” in the fight against climate change, as the long lifespan of both nuclear and fossil fuel power plants “risks leading to a technological lock-in for many decades and divert investments away from renewables.

    “We reiterate that natural gas and nuclear power do not meet the legal and scientific requirements […] to qualify as sustainable economic activities.”

    Germany has increasingly distanced itself from nuclear energy since the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan, following an earthquake in the region.

    Three nuclear plants were shut down on New Year’s Eve last year, with the remaining three active plants expected to be shut by the end of 2022.

    However, France relies on nuclear power for over 70 percent of its electricity and sees it as a viable alternative to fossil fuel.

    In Germany, the “traffic light” coalition government of social democrats, liberals and greens have disparate views over the plans.

    Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz, leader of the Social Democrat Party, is said not to be upset about the taxonomy regulation.

    However, the country’s Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, a Green politician, recently said it would be “absolutely wrong” to include nuclear energy on the list, arguing that it “can lead to devastating environmental catastrophes”.

    Though there is deep anger towards the proposals, many believe that the act will still pass as it would require 20 member states, or a majority in the EU Parliament, to object to it.

    Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg


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