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There will be "clear and tight conditions" for classifying natural gas as sustainable, however.

By Joseph Murphy

The European Commission (EC) proposed on January 2 including natural gas in its taxonomy for what should be considered sustainable investments.

In a statement, the EC said that energy mixes of different member states varied and that some still relied heavily on coal-fired power and heating. The EU's taxonomy should therefore "enable member states to move towards climate neutrality from different positions," it said.

"Taking account of scientific advice and current technological progress, as well as varying transition challenges across member states, the commission considers there is a role for natural gas and nuclear as a means to facilitate the transition towards a predominantly renewable-based future," the EC said.

In order to be classified as sustainable, though, gas investments will have to comply with "clear and tight conditions," the commission said. Projects must produce low emissions by 2035, potentially through their conversion to bio-methane or hydrogen, it said.

Natural gas is set to have a prominent role in the energy transition plans of a number of EU members including Germany, which is phasing out nuclear and coal in favour of gas and renewables, and Poland, which is looking to break its heavy dependence on coal. The EC's proposed changes to taxonomy will be negotiated by member states and the European Parliament.