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EU parliament backs labelling gas and nuclear investments as ‘green’

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BRUSSELS (REUTERS) – The European Parliament on Wednesday (July 6) backed EU rules labelling investments in gas and nuclear power plants as climate-friendly, throwing out an attempt to block the law that has exposed deep rifts between countries over how to fight climate change.

The vote paves the way for the European Union proposal to pass into law, unless 20 of the bloc’s 27 member states decide to oppose the move, which is seen as very unlikely.

The new rules will add gas and nuclear power plants to the EU “taxonomy” rulebook from 2023, enabling investors to label and market investments in them as green.

Out of 639 lawmakers present, 328 opposed the motion to block the EU gas and nuclear proposals, while 278 voted to block the proposals. Some 33 abstained.

Opponents of the new rules failed to secure the 353 votes needed to secure a majority in the 705-seat parliament.

This will be a relief to the European Commission, which proposed the rules in February after more than a year of delay and intense lobbying from government and the gas and nuclear industries.

“There will be no greenwashing,” EU financial services chief Mairead McGuinness said on Tuesday.

The EU taxonomy is a landmark law designed to clear up the murky world of sustainable investing, by ensuring any financial products making eco-friendly claims adhere to strict standards.

The debate over gas and nuclear rules has split EU countries, lawmakers and investors. Brussels redrafted the rules multiple times, flip flopping over whether to grant gas plants a green label. Its final proposal fuelled fierce debate about how to hit climate goals amid a crisis with Russia over its gas supplies.

Nuclear energy is free from CO2 emissions but produces radioactive waste. Gas produces planet-warming emissions but some EU states see it as transition fuel in the shift away from dirtier coal.

Nuclear-reliant France and heavy coal-user Poland were among those backing the new rules.

Austria and Luxembourg’s governments have threatened to sue the EU if its proposal becomes law, while Denmark and others warned the move would undermine the EU’s credibility in fighting climate change if it labelled CO2-emitting gas as green.

Lawmakers also disagree on how the law will impact financial markets, with some warning that gas and nuclear projects could face higher capital costs if they are denied “green” status.

Others suggest the taxonomy’s political symbolism far outweighs the impact it will have on investors, since the law does not prohibit investments in activities without the green label.

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