MEPs reject call to maintain nuclear capacity

Call for harmonised EU energy tax absent in European Parliament resolution on energy, environment

MEPs meeting in Strasbourg this week have voted narrowly to reject a call for nuclear energy generation capacity to be maintained at its current level in a bid to combat climate change. The move came during a debate to finalise the European Parliament's response to a European Commission communication on the greening of EU energy policy which was published last year (ENDS Daily 14 October 1998).

The parliament's rapporteur on the subject, Giles Chichester, said he was "stunned" that the document made no reference to nuclear energy, and proposed to call on the Commission to "encourage" member states to implement strategies to replace generating capacity "in good time".

"The truth is that we will not meet our [carbon dioxide reduction] targets without nuclear energy," said Mr Chichester, energy spokesman for the centre-right EPP bloc, the parliament's biggest grouping.

The future of nuclear power in Europe has looked bleak in recent times, with no countries planning capacity expansion and significant nuclear-using countries such as Sweden and Germany having pledged to renounce the technology.

In a close vote, however, the Parliament's plenary session decided to remove the reference, calling instead for the Commission to "study the contribution of various types of energy" to meeting the EU's reduction targets under the Kyoto protocol.

Notably absent from the Parliament's resolution on energy and environment is any call for a harmonised EU energy or carbon tax, a measure recommended as an "important first step" towards climate change abatement in the Commission's communication.

Although Brussels diplomats are currently assessing whether resistance to a minimum tax on energy products can be circumvented, MEPs call only for those member states "that so wish" to be able to introduce a CO2 tax (ENDS Daily 15 November). The Parliament has previously argued in favour of the tax, but an influx of right-leaning deputies after elections this summer seems to have weakened its resolve for EU-wide tax measures.

Elsewhere in the resolution, MEPs "strongly urge" member states to integrate environmental considerations into energy policies and say the Commission should make "even more decisive use" of its scope for coordinating and monitoring the so-called Cardiff process. They also note the "contradiction" involved between ongoing liberalisation of the energy networks, leading to lower prices and higher consumption, and the aim of CO2 emission reductions.

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111.

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