(Bloomberg) -- European Union Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn said he will vote against including natural gas and nuclear projects in the bloc’s green rulebook as that would risk prolonging the energy transition.
By the end of the month, the European Commission is expected to adopt a draft that would grant certain gas and nuclear projects a green label during the transition, even after the proposal was slammed by a key group of experts. Hahn is concerned that approval deadlines for construction permits -- 2030 for gas and 2045 for nuclear -- could mean facilities are still in use for decades.
“If it stays as it is currently, then we are talking about a transitional period which is in reality much more than 100 years,” Hahn told a group of reporters in Brussels Tuesday. “I don’t consider this as transitional.”
Despite Hahn’s objections, other commissioners have noted the need for transition technologies to help countries like Poland shift away from coal. The Commission -- the EU’s executive arm -- usually makes decisions through a consensus approach, or failing that, a simple majority. Then member states and the EU Parliament must approve the proposal, but the bar for rejection is high.
At least 20 of the EU’s 27 member states -- representing no less than 65% of the bloc’s population -- would need to unite against the plan for it to fail.
There is a risk the Commission’s ambition to set the “gold standard” in environmentally friendly finance is undermined. The bloc has been criticized by lawmakers, investors and civil society for pushing ahead with plans they say could jeopardize the EU’s 2050 zero carbon goal.
The Platform on Sustainable Finance called on the Commission to abandon the plans, saying that even the best performing gas-fired facilities couldn’t qualify as green or transition assets.
Hahn’s position reflects that of his home country Austria, which said it would reject the proposals. Hahn himself oversees the bloc’s green bond sales, the proceeds of which cannot be channeled toward nuclear or gas projects.
“It’s also about credibility,” Hahn said. For green bonds “we have very clear and unambiguous regulations that exclude using European taxpayers money for that kind of energy production.”
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