For the European Parliament natural gas and nuclear power plants have been designated as climate-friendly investments. The European Commission released the proposal, formally called the EU taxonomy, in December as a list of economic activities that investors can label and market as green in the EU.
A motion to block the proposal received 278 votes in favor and 328 against, while 33 lawmakers abstained.
Unless 20 of the EU's 27 member states oppose the proposal, it will be passed into law. The proposal was initially met with resistance among some EU member states, with one camp led by France strongly backing the green label for natural gas and nuclear energy, while Germany which has been phasing out its nuclear power plants — had opposed the plan.
Some environmental groups and EU lawmakers have also criticized the plan for greenwashing fossil fuel and nuclear energy.
Austria and Luxembourg have even pledged to sue the EU if the plan becomes law. Still, the proposal had the backing of the majority of the center-right European People's Party, the European Parliament's biggest lawmakers' group.
Lawmakers of the centrist Renew Europe group were largely in favor of the proposal, while the Greens and Social Democrats mostly opposed it.
A total of 353 lawmakers — a majority of the Parliament's 705 lawmakers — are needed to reject a plan for it to fail. The ongoing conflict over Russian gas supply to Europe has fueled opposition to the plan to label gas as environmentally friendly.
It's dirty politics and it's an outrageous outcome to label gas and nuclear as green and keep more money flowing to Vladimir Putin's war chest, Greenpeace EU sustainable finance campaigner Ariadna Rodrigo said. We will fight this in the courts, she added.
Paul Tang, a Dutch EU lawmaker with the center-left Social Democrats, had criticized the plan as influenced by the lobby from Gazprom and Rosneft, both Russian state-owned energy companies.
Tang also slammed the move as institutionalizing greenwashing.
It is now important to prevent this vote from setting a precedent for other countries to temper climate ambitions, he wrote in a statement.
Bogdan Rzonca, a Polish member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS), said less wealthy EU countries need private investments in gas and nuclear power to be able to move away from coal.
Gilles Boyer, a French MEP with the Renew group, said that meeting energy demand with renewable energy in the long-term would be ideal, but it's not possible right now.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, whose country has just taken over the rotating EU presidency, said Wednesday's vote was excellent news for Europe.