As Catholics, united for our common home, we urgently ask the European Council and European Parliament to veto and reject the Taxonomy Complementary Climate Delegated Act and remove gas and nuclear from the list of environmentally sustainable activities.
People of faith divest at scale from dirty coal, oil, and gas, and reinvesting in climate solutions conclude that there is no future for a greenwashing of fossil fuel companies and governments that subsidize climate injustice. As Pope Francis said, “Enough of the thirst for profit that drives the fossil fuel industry’s destruction of our common home.” In the last decade, 1,485 institutions divested about $40 billion from the harmful fossil fuel industry. Among them are 307 Catholic institutions who are making a moral and ethical choice of divestment for keeping fossil fuels in the ground. The Fossil Fuel Exit Strategy states that the world already has more than enough renewable energy potential to comfortably make the transition away from fossil fuels while also expanding energy access for all. The International Energy Agency (IEA) Net Zero by 2050 Roadmap says that no new investments in fossil fuels are possible to keep in line with the Paris agreement 1.5 degrees Celsius goal that the EU aims to reach by 2030 and 2050.
On February 2, 2022, the European Commission presented a Taxonomy Complementary Climate Delegated Act on climate change mitigation and adaptation covering certain gas and nuclear activities. The EU Taxonomy in general aims to guide private investment to activities that are needed to achieve climate neutrality and provide companies, investors, and policymakers with appropriate definitions for which economic activities can be considered environmentally sustainable. Being drafted to secure and protect private investors from greenwashing, the Taxonomy Complementary Climate Delegated Act has become a greenwashing tool in further framing the fossil fuel gas and dangerous nuclear power as environmentally sustainable. It won’t help companies to become more climate-friendly, mitigate market fragmentation, and it won’t help shift investments to renewable energy where they are the most needed. The year 2021 has become a milestone year for investors concerned about climate change and social justice to make changes amid record inflows to funds focused on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues.
Many institutions have already divested from fossil fuels, and divestment is playing a critical role in divesting of financial flows towards a “rapid green energy transition that will likely result in overall net savings of many trillions of dollars – even without accounting for climate damages or co-benefits of climate policy.” And this process is unflappably ongoing along with the rise of green sustainable investments.
Even a need for a great deal of private investment for the EU to become climate neutral by 2050 cannot justify the latest intention of the European Commission to include fossil fuel gas and nuclear in the list of “environmentally-sustainable” activities and adopt the Taxonomy Complementary Climate Delegated Act. By including fossil gas in the taxonomy, the European Union fails to give a clear signal to private investors that they need to stop investing in fossil gas assets and redirect financial flows towards true climate-oriented investments. This may affect the ambition of the EU as a global leader in emission reductions and hitting the EU’s 2030 targets implies reducing fossil gas consumption across the EU by 32% to 37%, which is incompatible with new gas investments. Gas is a fossil fuel and cannot be environmentally sustainable. It’s completely incompatible with limiting global warming to 1.5°C in line with the Paris Agreement, according to the IEA and the EU’s 2030 climate targets Fit for 55.
Nuclear doesn’t contribute to climate objectives and, according to Taxonomy regulation principles and other resources, cannot be defined as sustainable. It uses uranium to power turbines, and it is accompanied with large greenhouse emissions during its mining, milling, and use. The JRC report identifies the dominant life cycle phases of nuclear energy significantly contributing to potential radiological impacts on the environment and human health as: uranium mining and milling; production of electricity by means of nuclear fission reactors; and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. The risks of catastrophic nuclear accidents should never be ignored along with the fact that nuclear poses significant environmental and social hazards at all stages of its supply chain.
Nuclear power is proven to be a dangerous, dirty, and expensive source of energy. Radioactive materials in the plume from the nuclear power plant can severely contaminate people, land, buildings, food, water, and livestock. The example of Chernobyl, the worst disaster in the history of nuclear power generation, shows that even 36 years after the catastrophe, the area of 30 square km is still severely radioactive and not suitable for living nor for agriculture. The 160 square km area is contaminated beyond safety norms. Over 8,4 mn of inhabitants in three countries were irradiated, which resulted in exponential increase of cancer, leukemia, children’s congenital diseases and other non-remediable damage. Some 300,000 people became refugees.
We don’t need to put people and nature at risk with dangerous nuclear energy anymore, when we may use renewable energy and technical progress instead. “We can once more broaden our vision. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (LS 112).
By this statement, Laudato Si’ Movement is joining the prophetic call of Laudato Si’ and multiple voices of a civil society for a just and truly green transition. We are calling on European faith institutions to sign our statement by this link and demand from the EU Parliament and European Council to follow and implement the EU Fit for 55 strategy goal that claims for no gas and nuclear being presented as a sustainable energy in future investments. The gas dependence of the EU countries is huge, but it means this is the time for radical political action that cut ties with dirty fossil fuel energy market players. This time is now.