Lewis Carroll in “Through the Looking Glass”
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said rather dismissively, “it means exactly what I choose to mean – no more, no less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “if you can make the words mean so many different things.” “The question is”, said Humpty Dumpty, “who should be the master – that’s all.”
English author Lewis Carroll would feel at home in Europe today as European Union lawmakers voted to label nuclear power and natural gas as ‘green’. In January, like Humpty Dumpty, he chose to declare nuclear power and natural gas green if they met certain criteria: gas projects must replace coal, with plans in place to switch to renewables or to “low-carbon gases” – probably a lifeline for hydrogen – by 2035. Nuclear energy must meet special standards for waste treatment.
Europeans have been arguing about it since it was proposed and the European Parliament vote on July 5 was an attempt to block the decision. He failed, getting only 278 votes when he needed 353.
And even with the limits and qualifications, it’s a big deal. Luca Bonaccorsi, Sustainable Finance Director at Transport & Environment, said:
“This has to be the greatest act of greenwashing in history; enacted by the same people who are supposed to protect us from the climate crisis. The sun will not set in the East just because a group of complicit politicians l said in a law. The gas will never be clean and renewable either. The laws of nature do not lie, but the taxonomy does. This bill will not withstand the numerous legal challenges announced and it will be shunned by the investors.
Greenpeace Europe sustainable finance campaigner Ariadna Rodrigo said in a statement:
“It’s dirty politics and it’s an outrageous outcome to label gas and nuclear as green and keep pouring more money into Putin’s war chest, but now we’re going to fight this in court industries will not help them there We are inspired by climate activists here in Strasbourg this week and are confident that the courts will invalidate this politically motivated greenwashing as clearly in violation of human rights EU.
Ukrainian climatologist and member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Svitlana Krakovska, told the Guardian: “I am in shock. Russia’s war on Ukraine is a war paid for by climate-warming fossil fuels and the European Parliament has just voted to increase Russia’s billions in fossil gas funding. How on earth is this in line with Europe’s position to protect our planet and stand by Ukraine? »
But is it so serious? Even financial institutions that could now invest in gas and nuclear choose not to. According to the Financial Times, the European Investment Bank is ignoring the decision and so are other funds. “In our view, fossil gas and nuclear should not have access to the same cheap financing as renewables, as this will inevitably crowd out financing for the green transition, slowing its progress,” said Anders Schelde, Director Danish pension fund investments. Akademiker Pension.
Energy Cities is an organization that envisions “we will all be living in low-carbon, resilient cities with access to affordable, secure and sustainable energy” by 2050. Spokesperson Adrian Hiel told Treehugger:
“The decision to include nuclear and gas in green investments is foolish rather than fatal. It unnecessarily muddy the waters of what is truly green. Our energy system is clearly decarbonizing and decentralizing – this political signal goes against this trend and the end result will be investments that become stranded assets. The energy transition will be slower and more expensive due to today’s decision.”
Hiel continues with a very Treehugger approach, discussing consumption rather than production, and demand rather than supply.
“Governments have a bad habit of trying to solve energy problems with the simple and wrong solution of increasing supply. The quickest and cheapest solution is to reduce energy consumption and replace the polluting energy by clean renewable energies.”
The American reaction
Notwithstanding the nuance and the limitations, the immediate reaction in the United States was to attack President Joe Biden and the non-existent Green New Deal, with tweets like: “Maybe this should have been the first move here in the States States before killing the big oil companies and imposing electric vehicles” and “This could be one of the most important political decisions of the decade. I can only hope that the US will follow the EU’s lead. People who constantly made fun of socialist Europe suddenly see it as a model.
But even the Wall Street Journal noted that this decision does not open Europe to gas:
“The commission said the conditions for determining which nuclear and natural gas investments can be included in the taxonomy set the bar high and should help ensure that these activities contribute to the overall goal of mitigating climate change. Environmental groups and some lawmakers disagree, saying the standards are too lax.”
It is certainly not “one of the most important political decisions of the decade”. Instead, it is a compromise made to satisfy France’s nuclear ambitions, Germany’s need for gas to replace coal, and concerns the inclusion of words in the Union’s taxonomy European Union – “a regulatory classification tool that helps investors, companies and financial institutions define environmentally sustainable economic activities”. And, as Hiel tells Treehugger, “It is far, far from being the most important decision and it does not change the trajectory of Europe. ICE cars are dead, buildings will be renovated and renewable energy will remain much, much cheaper.”
But we’ll hear about it every time there’s a proposal to ban or limit natural gas and probably any other discussion about fossil fuels. Because, as Humpty Dumpty noted, the words are what you choose to mean.