EU Commission “Suppresses Its Own Science” By Allowing Gas In Taxonomy

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Experts hired by the EU Commission to help draft sustainable investment rules have told Brussels its plan to label gas as green risks undermining the bloc’s climate goals. The EU Taxonomy draft proposal, published by the Commission late on 31 December 2021, confirmed that gas would be included as a sustainable investment. Now the Commission’s own expert group has reviewed the proposal and rejected the inclusion of gas, as it contradicts science-based recommendations issued in 2020.

Luca Bonaccorsi, director of sustainable finance at T&E and member of the European Commission’s Platform on Sustainable Finance, said: “The expert group has simply reiterated some obvious facts: gas is not environmentally sustainable. It acknowledges that gas might be used to transition out of coal but it unequivocally states that this fossil fuel is not compliant with the EU’s 2050 net-zero goal, and therefore must be removed from the green taxonomy.”

Currently, the Taxonomy sets a limit for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from electricity production at 100g of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt hour, which is in line with the science-based recommendations of the expert group. This limit excludes gas from being labelled “green”, in a bid to ensure the EU meets its net-zero target by 2050. However, the new Commission proposal published on 31 December 2021 dramatically reversed this position, by including gas in the taxonomy. Gas plants constructed before 2030 would be allowed under certain criteria[1] that far exceeds the scientific recommendations of the expert group.

The Delegated Act also includes provisions for the transition from fossil gas to “low carbon” gases, such as biogas or hydrogen. An early impact assessment suggests that this would require more than 20% of Europe’s cropland, an area the size of France, and three times the current production of maize, just to fuel the gas plants needed to replace coal. And if fossil gas were to be entirely replaced with biogas, as implied in the draft delegated act, this would require approximately 80% of Europe’s cropland.

Luca Bonaccorsi added: “The Delegated Act on gas doesn’t just make the goals of the Green Deal and the Paris treaty impossible, it also represents the largest incentive scheme in history for biogas. The reliance on biogas will compromise vast swathes of land, and could make Europe dependent on imports from abroad. We are heading towards a repeat of the biofuels disaster, but this time around for biogas.”

Luca Bonaccorsi concluded: “This Delegated Act is not based on science and it must be dropped. The Commission must listen to its own experts, not the political whims of member states. If the Commission doesn’t substantially modify the Delegated Act, and make it compliant with the European Green Deal, the substantial backlash they have already seen from the scientific community, financial institutions and environmental groups, will grow louder and stronger in calling for a parliamentary veto. We call upon President Von der Leyen and Commissioner McGuiness to re-write this proposal.”

[1] According to the text, gas plants constructed before 2030 are considered sustainable if their GHG emissions do not exceed 270g of CO2e/kWh or if their annual GHG emissions do not exceed an average of 550kg of CO2e/kW per year over 20 years.

Originally published on Transport & Environment.


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