FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium May 5, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo
June 1, 2021
By Kate Abnett and Simon Jessop
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission will allow its environmental advisers greater scope to critique the bloc’s sustainable finance rules, after some advisers said it had disregarded science to win a political compromise on which investments to label as green.
The Commission in April published its “sustainable finance taxonomy”, a list of economic activities that help to combat climate change and which can be marketed as green investments in the European Union from next year.
The proposals arrived months behind schedule and after heavy lobbying from industry and EU governments.
A decision on whether to label gas-fuelled power generation as green was delayed until later this year, as member countries are divided over whether gas, although not carbon-free, should be encouraged as a means of phasing out far more polluting coal.
Five NGOs and consumer groups advising on the rules quit over the proposals, saying sections on forestry and bioenergy had been weakened at the request of some governments, and no longer reflected what the science said would support EU green goals.
Seeking to shore up the system, the Commission last week wrote to its advisers, offering them more say on the rules and changes to make the process more transparent.
The letter, dated May 26 and seen by Reuters, said in future the advisers can provide feedback on the Commission’s draft proposals once they are published.
That would allow the advisers to weigh in on the final stage of designing the rules – the stage at which some said the Commission had disregarded their recommendations. Currently, the advisers contribute early on, before the Commission drafts its proposal.
The EU executive will also explain how its proposals align with science – including when it does not follow the experts’ advice.
It will also bring together the platform of advisers with EU countries, and possibly the European Parliament, to discuss the technical recommendations that underpin the rules.
“This is to try and make sure that there’s a better understanding of the technical basis [for the advice],” said Nathan Fabian, chair of the advisers’ platform.
The NGOs and consumer groups who had quit said they will rejoin the platform.
“If followed, these steps will greatly improve the transparency and accountability of the decision-making process,” NGO Birdlife said in a statement.
A decision is due this year on whether gas and nuclear will be labelled as green, before the climate change-related section of the taxonomy takes effect in 2022.
Brussels plans to develop extra sections of the taxonomy, for investments that support aims such as protecting nature and avoiding pollution.
(Editing by Barbara Lewis)