Is gas really green?

One has to marvel at the power of the lobbyists, I should know, one of my good friends is a lobbyist and his ability to convince me of the worth of his propositions is truly terrifying, especially when it comes to getting a round in.

If anyone doubted the power and influence of the political lobby, then look no further than the recent announcement by the European Union that gas and nuclear can be considered green investments as part of a ne taxonomy. And yes, you read that right.

Under the new rules published earlier this month, gas power plants would be labelled green this decade if they met an emissions limit of 270g of CO2 equivalent per kWh, or have annual emissions below 550kg CO2e per kW over 20 years.

That could include gas plants with relatively high CO2 emissions today, provided they switch to low-carbon gas or reduce their running hours in later years.

Gas plants must also switch to run on low-carbon gases by 2035. Significantly, a requirement in a previous draft, for plants to start switching in 2026, was dropped.

New nuclear plants must receive construction permits before 2045 to receive a green investment label, and be located in a country with a plan and funds to safely dispose of radioactive waste by 2050.

Now, nuclear as green I can live with. Yes, yes, yes, there is all that nasty radioactive risk, and personally I would not want to live too close to a nuclear power plant. Did you know that in France, which remarkably sources some 78% of its electricity needs from nuclear generation, around 2.2 million people living within 20km (12.4 miles) of a nuclear plant have been given iodine tablets to protect their bodies from the effects of radiation in the event of an accident? Not exactly reassuring!

Still, on the whole I can see that compared to fossil fuels such as coal and gas, nuclear is a much greener option.

But hold on, what was that? I mentioned gas, that well known fossil fuel. It should come as no surprise then, that the new taxonomy, intended to channel billions of private money into climate-friendly investments, is fast becoming one of the biggest controversies of Ursula von der Leyen’s tenure as European Commission president.

Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation and a key architect of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, has been direct in her assessment: “The EU taxonomy was envisioned as a vital tool to align financial flows with the Paris agreement. Instead, Europe is undermining its climate leadership and lowering standards in the EU and beyond.”

Hard not to agree…

Enjoy the read,

Marcus Alcock,

Editor, Emerging Risks

Follow us on twitter: @risksEmerging

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