EU taxonomy: Scientists on the sidelines |


Status: 01/13/2022 05:41 AM

German scientists criticize NDR, WDR and SZ the von der Leyen plans for a green taxonomy in the EU are sharp. The draft is not only “greenwashing”, but endangers the green change in Europe.

By Lena Gürtler, Verena von Ondarza, NDR and Petra Blum, WDR

Sebastian Rink from the Frankfurt School of Finance tries hard not to let his disappointment run free. He talks in detail about how important taxonomy is and how many different aspects it has.

The bar that the European Union has set itself is high: the entire economy of the EU should be set to “green”.

In order for this to succeed, huge investments are required – financed primarily from the private sector, i.e. also through consumer investment products. Taxonomy is intended to steer money in the green direction – a set of rules that should define what is sustainable and what is not for all areas of the economy. The goal of a science-based taxonomy written free of lobby interests is even contained in the EU regulation.

“Not Scientific” and “Not Productive”

Rink is particularly concerned with one question: Which technologies will the financial sector be allowed to sell to investors as “green” and thus as sustainable in the future? Then the EU Commission presented its draft on New Year’s Eve – and Rink says: “This draft is neither scientific nor productive in terms of the further development of the taxonomy.” The way the draft now looks, says Rink, it makes it much more difficult to redirect financial flows “to activities that make the European economy greener”.

Nuclear power and gas can be classified as sustainable in the Commission’s draft – two points that have been shaping the public debate since New Year’s Day and angering Andreas Hoepner. He speaks of the “greatest greenwashing” of all time. Hoepner, Professor of Sustainable Finance at the University of Dublin, had long hoped to work on a “milestone” on the way to a climate-neutral Europe. He should advise the Commission on this.

Now Hoepner and other German scientists are practicing against each other NDR / WDR and Süddeutscher Zeitung (SZ) Sharp criticism of the Von der Leyen Commission’s draft on taxonomy. There is “zero percent of the recommendation of the scientific expert group in it,” says Hoepner. Rink also speaks of a “watered down” draft.

“Platform for Sustainable Finance”

Everything looked like such a beautiful plan: 57 representatives of interests from banks, churches, environmental associations, energy companies and universities are sitting at a table and are developing standards for what will be considered a green investment in the EU in the future.

The EU Commission christened this advisory body “Platform for Sustainable Finances” and ascribed it a key role in the development of taxonomy in Europe. “There were many long discussions that we had about every little word in the final report,” says Rink, who worked on the panel.

Influenced by energy lobbyists?

Regardless of the key role, the current draft hardly takes up the scientists’ suggestions. In fact, they hadn’t seen a place in the taxonomy for nuclear power. Not even for special rules such as for gas-fired power plants. Hoepner describes how twisted he thinks the proposal is: “It’s like calling French fries a salad.”

Hoepner has only one explanation for this type of special taxonomy for nuclear and gas: In the course of the development of the taxonomy, responsibility shifted from the tax authority DG Fisma to the energy authority of the EU Commission. He believes that the European energy industry is heavily influenced by them.

Other members of the advisory board suspect that too. In addition to public statements by politicians, for example for nuclear power, they also report how energy lobbyists have repeatedly influenced the process.

Special rules for gas

While nuclear power is causing a stir in the German debate on taxonomy, the scientists are particularly bothered by the special rules for gas in the Commission’s draft.

It contains, for example, guide values ​​that mean that new gas-fired power plants do not have to bill their CO2 pollution annually, but rather over an average over 20 years. This would label power plants as “green”, which may emit millions of tons of CO2 in their first few years.

Financial expert Rink sounds a little at a loss in view of this: “The real goal was to promote technologies that make a substantial contribution to climate protection.” But they should now line up with potential investors alongside gas and nuclear power. Andreas Hoepner calculates that the draft would give a total of 1.4 billion tons of CO2 emissions with a green label.

Little hope of change

The EU Commission does not want to know anything about the fact that the taxonomy advisory body on nuclear power and gas issues has been circumvented: “The developments in the area of ​​nuclear and gas activities in connection with the EU taxonomy have already been publicly announced several times, and public consultations and detailed expert advice have already been carried out, “writes a commission spokesman NDR, WDR and SZ.

The spokesman also pointed out that the platform for sustainable finance, as well as the member states and the European Parliament, can comment on the Commission proposal until January 21st. But after initial discussions with representatives of the Commission, Rink and Hoepner report that they have little hope of any major changes to the proposal.

“Safety is the mother of sustainability”

Rink worries that an originally science and expert-based approach has been disrupted by individual industries. The platform for sustainable finance is currently working on further chapters for taxonomy. In this case, it was about whether an investor is really investing in a sustainable company.

But in the future, the taxonomy should, for example, also clarify whether certain social standards apply in a company. A precedent has just been set here, says Rink – and with it a risk that individual interests of the EU countries and lobbying could create more space in other areas as well.

So there is already a lot of hope for a wide scope in the EU taxonomy: The Federal Association of the Defense and Security Industry is also demanding to be accepted and thus to be considered sustainable – and justifies this with the slogan “Security is the mother.” of sustainability “.

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