Two days before Vladimir Putin launched his illegal war against my home country Ukraine, Russian Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov gave an interview on the European Commission’s Taxonomy on Sustainable Business.
As Europe’s largest gas supplier, he told industry website Energy Intelligence, Russia “would oppose the idea that natural gas is not a fuel for the energy transition. “.
He was pleased that the gas had been included in the EU’s green taxonomy, which he said presented “a range of opportunities” for Russia.
Months later, as Ukrainians fight for their country’s survival, we watch in disbelief as the taxonomy remains unchanged, still full of “opportunities” for Russia.
Despite endless rhetoric about how the invasion of Ukraine changed everything, the European Commission has failed to remove gas from the taxonomy – its list of sustainable energy sources intended to prevent “money laundering”. green” at the corporate and state level.
The controversial taxonomy faces a simple majority vote in the European Parliament on Wednesday (July 6) – and unusually, the outcome is far from certain.
There is a growing sense in Brussels that a defeat for taxonomy is at hand, with a cross-party and transnational alliance against the proposal developing.
Basically, the centre-right European People’s Party – the largest bloc in parliament with more than a quarter of all MPs – is currently split down the middle on the issue. He announced that he would allow a free vote. Meanwhile, the Greens and Socialists and Democrats oppose taxonomy on principle.
As it stands, the taxonomy states that the use of gas to replace coal will only be considered sustainable if the state has committed to phasing out the use of power generation from the coal.
This is a blow for the Central and Eastern European members – none of which are currently in a position to make these commitments: paradoxically, the countries most in need of help to switch to renewable energy would gain the least from the taxonomy. It doesn’t really encourage the idea of gas as a transition fuel – ultimately failing on its own terms. This problem would also affect Ukraine.
The EU suggested that rebuilding Ukraine’s energy resilience should be “in line with the latest European policies and standards”. If the taxonomy passes as is, it will be impossible.
Among investors, the taxonomy has also come under criticism. The Net Zero Alliance, a group of 73 institutional investors, said the inclusion of gas “would be inconsistent with the high level of ambition of the EU taxonomy framework as a whole”.
For us in Ukraine, the implications of taxonomy are obvious.
Not even Russia or China
Ukraine’s Ambassador to Germany Andrij Melnyk wrote to German MEPs on June 28 warning that “[I]If the European Union improves the conditions for investment in gas infrastructure by adopting the delegated act, Russia will benefit. It would be a fatal signal in this difficult phase in which the inhabitants of my country of origin find themselves.”
The dark irony of the EU taxonomy is that even Russia does not include gas in its taxonomy on sustainable activities. Neither does China.
Europe appears unwilling to make a move that could deal a serious blow to Russia’s bet that it can continue to sell gas and oil to a needy West regardless of the outcome of its war on Ukraine.
In 2021, Russia earned about $43.4 billion [€42bn] in EU and UK gas revenues – revenues that funded the war on Ukraine.
The end of the war will only come when Europe clearly sever its umbilical link to Russian energy, once and for all – an option that the green taxonomy actively rules out.
On Wednesday, MEPs have the opportunity to strike a blow at democracy and our common fight against climate change, both within the EU and beyond its borders. All of Ukraine will be watching.