The European Parliament on Wednesday voted in favor of a proposal regarding labeling natural gas and nuclear power plants as climate-friendly investments.
The European Commission released the proposal, formally called the EU taxonomy, in December as a list of economic activities that investors can label and market as green in the EU.
A motion to block the proposal received 278 votes in favor and 328 against, while 33 lawmakers abstained.
A controversial plan
The proposal was initially met with resistance among some EU member states, with one camp led by France strongly backing the green label for natural gas and nuclear energy. Meanwhile, Germany — which has been phasing out its nuclear power plants, had opposed the plan.
Some environmental groups and EU lawmakers have also criticized the plan for “greenwashing” fossil fuel and nuclear energy.
Still, the proposal had the backing of the majority of the center-right European People’s Party, the European Parliament’s biggest lawmaker group, which confirmed on Tuesday that 107 of its lawmakers intended to vote in favor.
Lawmakers of the centrist Renew Europe group were largely in favor of the proposal, while the Greens and Social Democrats mostly opposed it.
A total of 353 lawmakers — a majority of the Parliament’s 705 lawmakers — are needed to reject a plan for it to fail.
Unless 20 of the EU’s 27 member states oppose the proposal, it will be passed into law.
‘Deepening a dependency’ on Russian gas
A sharp reduction in Russian gas supplies to Europe in recent weeks has triggered more opposition to the EU taxonomy’s classification of gas as green.
Paul Tang, a Dutch EU lawmaker with the center-left Social Democrats, has criticized the plan as influenced by “the lobby from Gazprom and Rosneft,” both Russian state-owned energy companies.
Ahead of the vote, Tang urged a revised draft to allow “a serious discussion on what is sustainable and what are the answers that Europe needs to give on energy security.”
Christophe Hansen, a conservative EU parliamentarian from Luxembourg, said supporting the plan would result in “deepening a dependency” on gas for electricity in some EU countries that is “killing lives on the ground,” a clear reference to the war in Ukraine.
The lesser evil
Bogdan Rzonca, a Polish member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS), said less wealthy EU countries need private investments in gas and nuclear power to be able to move away from coal.
Rejecting the bill “would result in a situation where the poor would only get poorer,” Rzonca said in a debate on Tuesday.
Gilles Boyer, a French MEP with the Renew group, said that meeting energy demand with renewable energy in the long-term “would be ideal, but it’s not possible right now.”