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European Green Deal

Greenwashing of EU finance law sparks walk-out by experts

Catherine Feore

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Five environmental and consumer organizations are pulling out of an EU expert group in protest at the European Commission’s decision on 21 April to classify certain forestry practices and highly emitting types of biomass as sustainable investments. 

The Platform on Sustainable Finance advises the European Commission on the development of science-based technical screening criteria for sustainable investments. The Commission has selected 50 members and nine special observers based on their environmental, sustainable finance, or social/human rights expertise. The members include key EU institutions such as EIOPA, ESMA, EBA, EIB, in addition to NGOs, trade and business associations, academia and research institutes there are also a number of observers including: OECD, ESM and ECB.

The organizations claim that the new rules are not based on climate and environmental science and ignore the recommendations of the EU expert group on sustainable finance. 

Luca Bonaccorsi, director of sustainable finance at Transport & Environment, said: “The taxonomy law was supposed to be the gold standard of sustainable finance. But the result has been the greenwashing of dirty cargo ships, gas buses, and logging and burning trees. Environmentalists will not come back to the process until the Commission comes back to science.”

NGOs Transport & Environment, WWF European Policy Office, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, consumer group BEUC, and eco-standards advocates ECOS are demanding discussions with the Commission to establish rules that stop the scientific basis of the EU taxonomy law being, to their minds, compromised further. 

director general - BEUC, eu consumer organisation

The groups say decisions to endorse harmful forestry and biomass projects completely discredits the green taxonomy.

The Commission also decided to classify as ‘sustainable’ cargo ships burning highly polluting ‘bunker’ fuel and buses running on fossil gas. It delayed a decision on fossil gas as an energy source until a later stage of the process.

The five organizations have suspended their participation in the expert group to avoid a “cover-up” of further greenwashing. They called on the expert group’s members and leading MEPs to join their protest. 

The Taxonomy Regulation determines which financial investments can be labelled environmentally sustainable. The actual list of environmentally sustainable activities is being drawn up by the Commission and is supposed to be based on recommendations by the expert group of NGOs, financial market companies and EU agencies.

Electricity interconnectivity

Commission approves €400 million Danish aid scheme to support production of electricity from renewable energy sources

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, a Danish aid scheme to support electricity production from renewable sources. The measure will help Denmark reach its renewable energy targets without unduly distorting competition and will contribute to the European objective of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. Denmark notified the Commission of its intention to introduce a new scheme to support electricity produced from renewable energy sources, namely onshore wind turbines, offshore wind turbines, wave power plants, hydroelectric power plants and solar PV.

The aid will be awarded through a competitive tendering procedure organised in 2021-2024 and will take the form of a two-way contract-for-difference premium.. The measure has a total maximum budget of approximately €400 million (DKK 3 billion). The scheme is open until 2024 and aid can be paid out for a maximum of 20 years after the renewable electricity is connected to the grid. The Commission assessed the measure under EU state aid rules, in particular the 2014 Guidelines on state aid for environmental protection and energy.

On this basis, the Commission concluded that the Danish scheme is in line with EU state aid rules, as it will facilitate the development of renewable electricity production from various technologies in Denmark and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the European Green Deal and without unduly distorting competition.

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy (pictured), said: “This Danish scheme will contribute to substantial reductions in greenhouse emissions, supporting the objectives of the Green Deal. It will provide important support to a wide range of technologies generating renewable electricity, in line with EU rules. The wide eligibility criteria and the selection of the beneficiaries through a competitive bidding process will ensure the best value for taxpayers money and will minimise possible distortions of competition.”

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Climate change

LIFE programme: More EU support for climate action

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The EU agreed to fund the LIFE programme with a budget of €5.4 billion. LIFE is the only programme at EU-level solely dedicated to the environment and climate and the programme for 2021-27 is the most ambitious yet. There will be €3.5bn for environmental activities and €1.9bn for climate action. The programme is part of the Green Deal package proposed by the European Commission.

Find out about EU responses to climate change.

Creating a cleaner and more circular economy that re-uses and recycles products is a main priority for the EU and the LIFE programme will have an important role to play. The programme will support the transition to clean energy and will work together with other programmes towards the EU goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. It also aims to protect and improve the quality of the environment and to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.

The LIFE programme is part of the EU long-term budget and recovery plans, which committed to spending 30% on climate action. The other programmes include the Just Transition Fund to help EU regions to adapt to the green economy, InvestEU which will finance climate projects, and Horizon Europe which will fund EU research and innovation in the climate sector

Read more on EU funding for initiatives to fight climate change:

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European Green Deal

Green taxation: Join today's online event with Executive Vice President Timmermans and Commissioner Gentiloni

EU Reporter Correspondent

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European Green Deal Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans, and Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, will co-host today (20 April), an online event on Green Taxation. The European Union has set out ambitious targets to tackle climate change and foster a cleaner environment, with a view to becoming a climate-neutral continent by 2050. Environmental taxation can play a positive and active role in achieving these objectives, by encouraging a switch to cleaner energy, more sustainable industry and greener habits. Green taxation can also contribute to a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and long-term sustainable growth. Tomorrow's event will feature debate and discussion around this important topic, with the participation of high-level representatives of the European Commission, European Parliament, member states, the OECD, industry and civil society. The full agenda and event streaming can be found on the Commission's website here.

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