For the past few weeks, all the nuclear industry has heard about the EU Taxonomy. JRC – the EU commission technical arm – has declared that nuclear energy does not harm the environment. Many articles have been published on how nuclear should be included in the EU taxonomy but actually very few have explained what EU Taxonomy is all about. In this article, the EU Taxonomy, a very interesting financial innovation, is briefly explained.
EU Green Deal
In December 2019, the EU presented its Green Deal, a set of initiatives aimed at achieving net zero in 2050. With global warming already impacting our economy and the way we are living, strong decisions are necessary to tackle this lifetime challenge.
The EU immediately recognised that governments and public institutions do not have the financial strength to fight global warming alone and that private sectors and investors must take part in this.
The EU Commission acknowledged how essential it is to have a strong link between investments and green projects.
Since 2008, the finance sector has seen a strong increase in green bonds that are aiming at providing capital for projects having a beneficial impact on the environment. Green bonds are really interesting securities to raise capital from a wide range of investors whilst giving them interesting returns and positively impacting the environment.
EU Green Bond Standard
With all the different green bonds rising in the world but also in different EU countries, there was a need for standardisation. How do you consider a project as green ? How do you make sure your investors have the right information ? How do you ensure your investments are actually ESG-aligned ?
All these questions were unanswered and until the EU started working on the EU Green Bond Standards (EU GBS).
Through the EU GSB, the EU is hoping to support the green bond market growth and promote its transparency and integrity. The EU mandated a Technical Expert Group (TEG) to clearly define what green bonds are. According to them and through the EU GBS, a green bound should meet the following elements:
- A clear definition of green projects;
- A Green Bond framework: clear methodologies on allocation, reporting, impacts and verification;
- A mandatory external verification;
- A mandatory reporting on fund allocation and environmental impact.
But the real question is: How do you define a green project?
That’s where the EU Taxonomy is key. This tool is actually essential to define whether a project is considered as a green project. Now, you see why people are fighting over to include nuclear in the EU Taxonomy.
The EU Taxonomy lists economic activities with performance criteria for their contribution to six environmental objectives:
- Climate change mitigation;
- Climate change adaptation;
- Sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources;
- Transition to a circular economy, waste prevention and recycling;
- Pollution prevention and control;
- Protection of healthy ecosystems.
And to be included in the EU Taxonomy, an economic activity has to:
- Substantially contribute to at least one of the six environmental objectives;
- Do no significant harm to any of the other five environmental objectives;
- Comply with minimum safeguards.
Now you understand why the recommandation from JRC on nuclear was important. They advised that nuclear energy does not do significant harm on the other five environmental objectives, more specifically on waste prevention.
The EU GSB and EU Taxonomy are really interesting tools to connect the EU Green Deal to private investors. We can all agree that reaching net zero will require private investments.
The European nuclear fleet is getting old and will need to be replaced in the next coming years. Considering how it is challenging to attract private investors in new build projects, countries such as France are hoping to have nuclear included in the EU Taxonomy. If nuclear is included in the EU Taxonomy, we might see more secured new build projects but also some interesting innovation in the nuclear industry.