EU sustainable finance advisers threaten to quit over green Taxonomy politicisation
First, it was the gas plants, then the nuclear power plants managed to sneak into the European Commission’s draft Taxonomy Delegated Acts, touted to be the “gold standard” for green rules. A letter, signed by nine members of the Platform for Sustainable Finance and Technical Expert Group (TEG) which advises the Commission on science-based criteria for Taxonomy rules, minced no words, threatening to quit over the political hijacking of the Taxonomy by gas and nuclear lobbies.
The draft regulations, a result of three years of work by scientific experts of the Platform for Sustainable Finance and the Technical Expert Group, have been dismissed due to an opaque politicised process, stated the letter, addressed to the European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen, and other high-ranking officials. “This politicised process is already hampering progress within the Platform’s work on developing technical screening criteria for the remaining four objectives. We are concerned that the time and effort we invest – pro bono – in developing science-based criteria could be undone by lobbying behind the scenes without the same due attention, debate and evidence required in the Platform,” stated the letter, representing experts such as Monique Goyens (BEUC), Luca Bonaccorsi (Transport & Environment), Sebastien Godinot (WWF European Policy Office) and Prof. Andreas Hoepner (University College Dublin and member of the platform and the TEG), among others.
The new draft’s provisions breach the Taxonomy Regulations in several instances, particularly the definition of transitional activities and that technical criteria be ‘based on conclusive scientific evidence’, they added. “Criteria for forestry, bioenergy, and fossil gas are in clear contradiction to climate science. These criteria are not simply weak: they are counter-productive and label as “sustainable” activities that may cause significant harm to the climate and the environment,” said the experts, adding that if these rules were adopted, the Taxonomy would become a greenwashing tool, penalising sectors which are making efforts to align with the Paris Agreement.
The platform’s scientific experts demanded that fossil gas be removed from the Taxonomy and the current criteria that classify forestry and bioenergy as “significantly contributing to climate mitigation” as they have no scientific basis and require more time to find credible climate criteria for these areas. They added that the politicised process and overriding of exerts’ work questions the very purpose of the Platform and its work and creates reputational risks. If politics and lobbying were to prevail over science, the members threatened to “reconsider” their contribution to the Platform.
The addition of fossil gas as transitional activity has raised concerns of ignoring the dangers of methane pollution, whose impact on climate change is up to 84 times greater than CO² in a 20-year timeframe. On 31 March 2021, the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), an investor coalition representing €4trn in assets under management, wrote to the Commission’s executive vice-president Timmermans, urging the EU to develop legislation including measurement, reporting and verifications for all energy-related methane emissions complemented by mandatory emissions standards for all gas consumed in Europe.
Claude Turmes, Luxembourg’s minister of energy, tweeted that including fossil fuels and nuclear in the list of sustainable activities would transform the effort into greenwashing and destroy the international credibility of the EU Taxonomy.