"Betrayal" © Screenshot livestream European Parliament
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“Traitors!”, it sounds from the public gallery of the plenary hall of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Three older men and five young women have risen from their benches. On their red t-shirts is one letter each. Together it spells the word: BETRAYAL! As they shout and the heads of the politicians turn upwards, Parliament President Roberta Metsola tries to continue with the meeting sternly.

It is not often that votes in the European Parliament evoke so many emotions that people travel to Strasbourg for them. But today there is work for the parliamentary security guards.

The group in the gallery is furious about the decision that the representatives of the people downstairs in the huge elliptical hall have just taken. By 278 votes to 328, a proposal to object to the European Commission’s proposal to green-label natural gas and nuclear energy was rejected. 33 people’s representatives abstained.

75 votes too few

The result is a huge disappointment for the European Greens. For months they tried under the leadership of the Dutch parliamentarian Bas Eickhout to find enough colleagues who want to speak out against the Commission proposal. Eickhout is on behalf of the Parliament the chief negotiator for the so-called taxonomy. Despite a coalition of parliamentarians from all groups, he ultimately came 75 votes short.

Eickhout calls the outcome of the vote a “major blow to the reputation of the European Union as a global climate leader.” Furthermore, he says, it sends a disastrous signal to investors that the EU now recognizes natural gas as a sustainable investment. Instead of listening to the science, opponents say, the European Commission is leaving its ears to the political wishes of a few member states.

The taxonomy is a system to classify investments. The list is intended to be an anchor for the financial world. By using the official stamp that the European Union gives to certain technologies, there should be clarity for the market. Investors and citizens, the idea is, would not have to look any further than the EU green label to be sure that their money is being put into sustainable projects.

European rules are “greyer than Russian ones”

But including natural gas and nuclear power in the list dilutes the system, according to critics. In addition to the large group of politicians who have come out against it, the call was also heard in the financial world not to do this. According to Eickhout, the entire taxonomy even becomes unusable if companies cannot promise their customers with this label that their money does not also go to the fossil industry. According to Dutch investigative journalists from Follow the Money, Europe’s green taxonomy is now even “greyer” than Russia’s.

That natural gas and nuclear power made it onto the list is the result of a political deal between France and Germany. The former country argued that nuclear power is CO2-neutral and therefore, despite the fact that nuclear power is not renewable energy, belongs on the list. Germany was vehemently against nuclear power, but in turn, argued that natural gas is cleaner than coal and can help reduce CO2 emissions as a transition technology.

Instead of fighting each other, the French and German governments decided to join forces and let each other have their way. Despite scientific opinions stating that gas and nuclear power have no place in the taxonomy.

‘We don’t have the luxury of choosing’

The vote was lost for the Greens mainly because the Christian Democrats did not go along. They justified their decision to support the inclusion of gas and nuclear power in the taxonomy by arguing that the luxury is not there to exclude certain technologies if Europe wants to meet its climate targets: “Nuclear power plays an important role as a stable clean base in our energy system, alongside solar and wind,” they wrote in a statement after the vote.

On natural gas, the conservatives say that strict conditions will apply before a gas project can receive a green stamp. For example, a new gas plant must replace an old and much dirtier coal plant. Especially in countries like Poland, a lot of CO2 emissions can be saved this way.

However, it is unclear where the gas for all these new gas plants will come from. Since the war in Ukraine, Europe wants to accelerate the removal of Russian gas. In the climate plans of which the taxonomy is part, however, until the beginning of this year, it was assumed that there would be sufficient Russian gas available until far into the future. Europe hopes to replace Russian natural gas with imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from other parts of the world.


The carbon footprint of that LNG just doesn’t meet the strict terms of the taxonomy. So much CO2 comes out of production that investments in new LNG terminals can’t get a green stamp even with these new rules.

After the vote in the European Parliament, the decision is final. Theoretically, the European member states could still draw a line through it, but it is excluded that this will happen. Twenty of the 27 member states would have to vote against the Commission proposal to get it off the table. The group of opponents is not that large.