The international nuclear energy industry has complained about being excluded from the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow — prompting environmentalists to say it should have “no place” there.
This was “very disappointing”, the association told The Ferret. A Scottish environmental group, however, said that it was “right” to keep the nuclear industry out.
Nuclear power is seen by some as clean energy because they say it doesn’t emit greenhouse gases when producing electricity. But it has faced continual opposition from environmental groups due to high costs, complications with decommissioning and the need to dispose of radioactive waste.
The World Nuclear Association, which lists 183 nuclear companies as members, said it was “deeply concerned” that plans for nuclear exhibits in civil society’s Green Zone at COP26 had been turned down.
The Green Zone is billed as a space for organisations to host “workshops, panel discussions and keynote speeches” which “promote dialogue, awareness, education and commitments” on the climate crisis.
The UK Government is managing the Green Zone, which will be located at the Glasgow Science Centre for the duration of the conference in November. Officials are determining which organisations will be granted space at the venue.
The Cabinet Office COP26 unit said it had received “a huge level of interest” from groups wanting to be in the Green Zone. “Discussions are still ongoing”, stressed a spokesperson, pointing out that “limited capacity” meant not all applicants could be accommodated.
COP26, which stands for the UN’s 26th Conference of the Parties on Climate Change, is being held at the Scottish Events Campus (SEC) in Glasgow between 1-12 November. It is widely viewed as the last chance for world leaders to reach an agreement which mitigates the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
As part of the application process, organisations interested in making use of space in the Green Zone were required to provide details of their “sustainability or environmental policies”.
Businesses looking to host Green Zone events also had to be signed up to the Science Based Targets initiative and the Race to Zero campaign. These are UN schemes aimed at ensuring companies have “credible” plans to achieve net-zero emissions.
The Green Zone will be open to the general public and successful applicants could present to audiences of 200 people at a time.
Friends of the Earth Scotland criticised the criteria for getting a platform in the Green Zone as too weak. “But if they are keeping the nuclear industry out then they are definitely getting that bit right,” said the group’s director, Richard Dixon.
“Having failed with the ridiculous claim that nuclear is cheap, the latest wheeze from the nuclear industry is to tell us that nuclear reactors are the answer to climate change.”
There was an “very urgent” need to reduce emissions, Dixon argued. “The nuclear industry’s disastrous history of cost and time overruns show very clearly that what they offer would be too little, too expensive and far too late.”
He added: ”With renewables and energy efficiency cheaper and quicker to build and run than nuclear, they have already lost this argument and should have no place to spout their lies at COP26.”
The World Nuclear Association, however, insisted that nuclear power could help “meet increasing demand for low-carbon electricity”. Nuclear reactors could also play a role in “eliminating the use of fossil fuels in the production of glass and steel”, it said.
The association’s rejected exhibits would have made these points. They were also going to showcase plans to use nuclear energy in the future production of green hydrogen, which the industry says could be used as fuel to help decarbonise the economy.
The association hoped that the exclusion of its exhibits was not “indicative” of the way it will be treated throughout COP26. “It is very disappointing that no nuclear exhibits were selected for the UK’s Green Zone exhibition,” said an association spokesperson.
“More and urgent action is needed to advance the use of a broad range of low-carbon technologies, including nuclear, if we are to avoid the catastrophe that runaway climate change would cause.”
The association also confirmed that two unnamed UK-based nuclear trade associations have applied to be included in side events taking place within the UN-managed Blue Zone at COP26.
The Blue Zone will be inside the SEC alongside the main negotiations at the conference. Access will be limited to national delegations and accredited businesses and activist groups.
The two UK nuclear associations hope to be involved in panel discussions with what they consider “fellow clean energy groups”, including the renewables industry.
The UN is set to publish a list of organisations participating in side events in the Blue Zone on 30 September.
In July, The Ferret revealed that 19 nuclear industry executives were among a host of companies, including major fossil fuel polluters, who were part of key UN climate negotiations in the lead up to COP26.
This story is the fourth of a series The Ferret is planning in the run-up to COP26 in November. Investigations have been supported by the European Climate Foundation, which cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained or expressed therein.
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