Nuclear power cannot be regarded as green energy, so carbon reduction still requires renewable energy, energy efficiency, or carbon capture and storage technology, Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Minister Chang Tzi-chin (張子敬) told a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei on Thursday.
This is the mainstream view worldwide, and green finance, or ESG — environmental, social and governance — investments, which have surged over the past few years, prohibit investing in nuclear power plant projects.
For example, MSCI, the world’s most reputable compiler of investment indices, generates ESG lists by first excluding firms in the nuclear power, arms, gambling and pornography industries. Only then does it look at whether a firm’s performance indicators meet sustainability requirements. Many funds based on MSCI’s ESG indices do not buy the stocks or bonds of companies in those industries.
Although most power plants in other countries are privately owned, many are publicly traded, but ESG funds exclude companies that generate revenue from nuclear power.
Over the past few years, the EU has been promoting its Green Deal, a transformation of the bloc’s energy sector, and has adopted the EU Taxonomy, a transparency tool that lists economic activities that meet sustainability standards.
Businesses that meet the standards can issue green bonds, which enjoy lower borrowing costs and fewer administrative procedures. Funds that claim to be ESG must disclose how sustainable the companies in their portfolios truly are.
The EU Taxonomy excludes nuclear power generation, and nuclear power cannot be used to account for carbon reduction efficiency.
The EU’s logic is that carbon reduction cannot be achieved to the detriment of other environmental objectives, such as eliminating radioactive waste or safeguarding biodiversity. Sustainable carbon reduction must “do no significant harm” to the environment.
By this logic, nuclear power is a major hazard in Taiwan, a densely populated country situated in an earthquake zone.
The proposed third liquefied natural gas terminal off the coast of Datan Borough (大潭) in Taoyuan’s Guanyin District (觀音) is another example of this.
Infrastructure for the project has been moved farther out to sea, far from the coastline, and the shipping lane is not to be dredged, minimizing damage to an algal reef.
In other words, if the terminal is part of the fight against air pollution, it must comply with the principle of not causing significant harm to other aspects of the environment.
The referendums that are to be held next month have either become highly politicized or distort the issue of nuclear power.
Perhaps the logic behind today’s ESG trend in global finance could help the public to better understand the issue and make more informed decisions.
Honda Chen is an associate research fellow at the Taiwan Academy of Banking and Finance.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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