Nuclear Politics

Europe / Parliament Recognises Role Nuclear Energy Can Play In Fighting Climate Change

By Kamen Kraev, David Dalton
28 November 2019

Resolution also passed declaring a climate and environmental emergency in Europe and globally
Parliament Recognises Role Nuclear Energy Can Play In Fighting Climate Change
The European parliament has adopted a resolution on the 2019 UN climate change conference (COP25) in Madrid that recognises the role nuclear energy can play in meeting climate objectives as a zero-greenhouse gas emissions source.

The resolution, adopted today by 430 votes in favour, 190 against and 34 abstentions, said nuclear energy can ensure a significant share of electricity production in Europe, but in view of waste it also requires a “medium- and long-term strategy that takes into account technological advances” to improve its sustainability.

The resolution that was passed differed from the text of an original resolution, which said “nuclear power is neither safe, nor environmentally or economically sustainable”. That resolution called for a transition strategy be developed for the phasing out of nuclear power in the EU.

The parliament also approved a resolution declaring a climate and environmental emergency in Europe and globally. It urged the European commission to ensure that all relevant legislative and budgetary proposals are fully aligned with the objective of limiting global warming to under 1.5C.

It urged the EU to submit its strategy to reach climate neutrality as soon as possible, and by 2050 at the latest, to the UN Convention on Climate Change.

MEPs also called on the new Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to include a 55% reduction target of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 in her “European Green Deal” policy package. Current EU targets foresee a greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 40% by 2030 from 1990 levels.

The COP25 climate change conference will be held in Madrid between 2 and 13 December 2019.

World leaders will be meeting to further work on an implementation plan for the 2015 Paris agreement, which binds countries to hold global warming to no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels, with an aspiration of a 1.5C limit.

The acting head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency said last month that without significantly increasing the use of nuclear power worldwide, it will be difficult to achieve the goal of reducing harmful emissions and fighting climate change.

Cornel Feruta pointed out that nuclear power contributes around one-third of all low-carbon electricity, producing practically no greenhouse gases, and some 10% of the total electricity produced worldwide.

Also last month, Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, told a conference that the decline of nuclear in the global energy mix poses a threat to economies and efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Safety concerns, rising costs and technological setbacks including delays to EPR projects in France and Finland have slowed nuclear projects since the Fukushima-Daiichi disaster in Japan in March 2011, he said.

At the same time, despite governments setting ambitious targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming, emissions hit a record high in 2018.

Mr Birol said governments need to change their policies and consider new nuclear capacity and lifetime operating extensions for existing nuclear plants.

He said nuclear’s contribution to Europe’s energy mix could fall to just 4% within two decades from 25% currently with huge consequences for both emissions and economies.

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