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By Kate Abnett
BRUSSELS, Dec 20 (Reuters) - The European Commission plans to finish next year its long-awaited rules on whether to label gas and nuclear energy as climate-friendly investments under EU green finance rules, its environment policy chief said on Monday.
The European Union's executive Commission is considering whether to include nuclear and natural gas in its "sustainable finance taxonomy", a rulebook that will restrict which activities can be labelled as climate-friendly investments.
"We are going to have most likely a discussion tomorrow in college, which then will lead... to approval next year," EU environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius told a news conference on Monday, referring to the Commission's weekly "college" meeting.
Before the Commission publishes its proposal for the rules, it must share them with member states and its group of expert advisers from finance, industry and civil society groups.
The Commission is expected to start the consultation process before the end of the year, which would mean the proposal itself would not be published until January 2022.
"We will kick start the process when it comes to the proposal on taxonomy before the end of the year," a European Commission spokesman told a regular briefing on Monday.
The Commission had planned to adopt the climate section of its taxonomy this year, but has struggled to overcome rifts among EU member states, who disagree on whether gas and nuclear help or harm attempts to avert disastrous climate change.
Once published, a majority of EU countries or European Parliament could block the proposed rules.
Brussels' decision on gas and nuclear has faced intense lobbying from EU countries, who are split. Some countries say gas investments are needed to help them quit more-polluting coal and others warn labelling a fossil fuel as green would undermine the credibility of the rules and the EU's leadership in tackling climate change.
Nuclear energy is similarly divisive. France, the Czech Republic and Poland are among those saying the fuel's low CO2 emissions make it vital in the transition to green energy. Germany, Luxembourg and Austria are among those opposed, citing concerns around radioactive waste.
The EU taxonomy will not ban investments in activities not labelled "green". But by limiting the green label to those activities deemed truly climate-friendly, the EU aims to steer cash into low carbon projects and stop companies or investors from making unsubstantiated environmental claims. (Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by David Gregorio)