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Debate around nuclear heats up as institutions prepare to vote on Complementary Delegated Act

Apr 25, 2022

At the start of 2022, the European Commission came forward with its proposal to add nuclear (and gas) to the Sustainable Finance Taxonomy via a Complementary Delegated Act (CDA). Whilst not perfect (and indeed, some of the criteria put forward will make it very challenging for nuclear projects to be considered as taxonomy compliant) it is still a positive step forward in terms of getting nuclear recognised as sustainable.

As part of the process, the Commission has now submitted its proposal for approval via a process known as ‘Scrutiny’. Based on this process, the Council and the European Parliament have 4 months to either adopt or reject this CDA – they cannot amend it (basically, they can either ‘take it or leave it’). One thing that they can do is decide to prolong the scrutiny period, but only by an additional two months. As a result, by mid-September of this year (at the very latest) we will finally know whether, or not, nuclear has been included under the taxonomy. And after three years working on this file, we are starting to feel like there really is light at the end of the tunnel.

But we must not get complacent. Yes, it is highly likely that a vast majority of Member States will adopt this proposal in Council. However, things are not so clear cut when it comes to the European Parliament. It is true that over the last 18 months or so, more and more have come to recognise that nuclear plays an important role when it comes to decarbonising the energy system and ensuring security of supply. Combined with recent developments in Ukraine, we are seeing more countries and Members of the European Parliament reconsidering their opinion on nuclear and recognising the role it can play. But as I mentioned earlier, the CDA is not just about nuclear, it is also about gas, and herein lies the issue.

Before going into more detail on this, I just wanted to touch upon the scrutiny process in Parliament regarding this file. According to the information available, MEPs on the lead committees (ENVI and ECON) have until 20 May 2022 to submit motions to reject the CDA (and these motions must be accompanied by a justification). These motions will then be put to a vote in these two committees sometime between 14-16 June 2022. If one of these motions gets the support of a majority of MEPs on these committees, it will the go to vote in Plenary. But even if it does not make it through at the committee stage, MEPs can still bring forward a new motion for vote in Plenary.

In order for the CDA to be rejected in Plenary, one of the motions to reject the CDA will need to receive the support of 353 MEPs (a simple majority of all MEPs). We agree that it will be difficult for MEPs to gather enough support for such a motion – but it is not impossible.

We knew that the Parliament was likely to be more of an issue than the Council, but with a majority of MEPs supporting either nuclear, gas or both we did not think that enough MEPs would support a rejection. But the current situation in Ukraine is leading some MEPs to rethink their support for gas – and this could negatively affect us when it comes to voting.

We fully understand why some may feel that supporting the CDA is providing support for gas supplies from certain countries. But the issue is that if this CDA is rejected, then nuclear will be out of the taxonomy as the Commission will not come forward new proposal. This will have a negative impact on the European nuclear sector – it is important to understand that there are several major economies around the world that do recognise nuclear as sustainable, and are thus including nuclear under their taxonomies and facilitating finance for their nuclear industry. Adoption of this CDA will therefore ensure that the European nuclear sector is treated equally. It will also reflect the science which has clearly demonstrated time and again that nuclear is sustainable.

We know that this is a difficult issue, but if we are to ensure that nuclear is to continue to play its rightful role in a decarbonised Europe then this CDA must be adopted. Therefore, we are calling on all MEPs who recognise this to help us ensure that the CDA is approved by either voting against any motions to reject the CDA or to simply abstain.

Jessica Johnson

Communication & EU Stakeholders Director

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