Nuclear energy is “green”: now what?

By Manuel Protásio (PhD Candidate at the University of Minho)

In the beginning of July this year, the European Parliament voted in favour of a proposal on labelling natural gas and nuclear power as climate-friendly investments. For the first time, Parliament did not object to the Commission’s Taxonomy Delegated Act to include specific nuclear energy activities, under certain conditions, in the list of environmentally sustainable economic activities covered by the so-called EU Taxonomy. Although it is still early to read anything else besides the actual change in the taxonomy of the European Commission, the truth is that this conceptual change regarding nuclear energy can be seen as a major political statement regarding the future of energy in the European Union.

From a political point of view, it can be argued that this change comes from the urgent and dramatic context we are currently in, due not only to Climate Change but also to the geopolitical shift that has risen from the Russia’s war with Ukraine. Within this new global context, European Union’s political landscape also changed, particularly in what concerns energy policy and I believe this new taxonomy given to nuclear energy is also part of this new political landscape. Nevertheless, it is not our intention to bring forward a political analysis to this shift in European policy regarding nuclear energy, but to give a brief overview of whether nuclear energy should be labelled as a green energy and a climate-friendly investment and if so, how can this change help European Union’s objectives in becoming more self-sustainable in terms of energy production as well as achieving its goals under the Green Deal.

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European Union Taxonomy: what is it and how will it work?

Nataly Machado (Master’s student in EU Law at UMinho). 

Taxonomy: where does this word come from? “The term is derived from the Greek taxis (“arrangement”) and nomos (“law”). Taxonomy is, therefore, the methodology and principles of systematic botany and zoology and sets up arrangements of the kinds of plants and animals in hierarchies of superior and subordinate groups”[1] In accordance to Maria da Gória F.P.D. Garcia:“it is the verification by scientists emerging from the community and from various quarters, sometimes against each other, that warns of the need to base political decisions on scientific knowledge if the very continuity of life in society is to be preserved.”[2] (free translation)

Let us make a brief Taxonomy’s history background. The first records of biological classification, which gave rise to taxonomy, the area of biology responsible for identifying, naming and classifying living beings, take us back to the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC). However, it was in the 18th century that the botanist Carolus Linnaeus developed the binomial nomenclature system, written in Latin, which is still used today. A well-known example that identifies us as a species: Homo sapiens.

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