European Commission trashes science-based recommendations by including fossils fuels in green taxonomy proposal

Posted on March, 23 2021

WWF, along with 225 scientists, financial institutions and NGOs, is sounding the alarm about a proposal by the European Commission to classify new fossil gas projects as environmentally sustainable under the EU Taxonomy of Sustainable Investments.
In the Commission’s proposal, a key criteria is that new gas cogeneration plants could be counted as green until the end of 2025 if they replace coal plants closing. However, early analysis finds that there are many more coal plants scheduled to close in the EU than gas cogeneration plants scheduled to open [1]. If this criterion were applied across the entire EU, up to 100% of new cogeneration gas plants constructed until the end of 2025 would be eligible to be labelled as green: this shows the scale of the loophole, which will be applied in EU just transition regions.

The EU’s supposed ‘gold standard’ for sustainable investments could in fact provide an incentive to build more gas plants while failing to close more coal plants. 

Allowing gas to be labelled as green ignores the massive environmental effects of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas which is released during the extraction of fossil gas. Methane’s impact on climate change is up to 84 times greater than CO2 in a 20-year timeframe and, if fossil gas leaks only 3% of its methane content, it causes even more warming than coal [2].

The proposal is also completely contradictory to the recommendations of the Commission’s own Technical Expert Group, which were published last year. A few months after the recommendations’ release, over 45.000 E.U. citizens responded to the public consultation on the taxonomy and underlined the importance of a taxonomy based on science -- a position representing 97% of all consultation responses. A petition calling for the EU to commit to cutting fossil fuels out of EU public recovery funds has reached nearly 400,000 signatures. 

Sebastien Godinot, Economist at WWF European Policy Office said:

‘Gas is a fossil fuel - the very idea of classifying it as environmentally sustainable is a disgrace. The EU taxonomy was originally created to stop greenwashing by financial institutions: it must not turn into one of the leading greenwashing tools in the world, this time with the EU’s seal of approval.

The European Green Deal and the EU global climate leadership are at stake here. If the Commission completely discards the TEG science-based recommendations and the long consultation process, what is the point of ever consulting them in the first place?!

President von Der Leyen, Vice-President Timmermans and Commissioner McGuinness must listen to the scientists’ recommendations and not cave into the vested interests of the gas lobbies and the falsehoods they have been promoting. 

We urge them to reconsider this change in direction and revise the Delegated Act to eliminate fossil fuels once and for all.’

Further information:

[1] According to the Europe Beyond Coal database, as of today 35 GW of coal-fired power plants are already scheduled to close between now and 2025 in the EU (out of the total 142 GW of operational coal plants in the EU today), and tens of additional GW need to close by 2025 in a 1.5°C pathway. According to Global Energy Monitor, 8,3 GW of gas-fired cogeneration plants are under construction or planned in the EU (4.3 times less). As a consequence, early analysis on capacity amounts, related to the first criteria in the Commission’s proposal, finds that up to 100% of gas plants with cogeneration built until 2025 could be eligible to be labelled as green, and there will be room for labelling much more. The result could be an incentive to build even more gas cogeneration plants than already planned, while failing to close any more coal plants. This would be fully counterproductive.

[2] Climate Bonds Initiative, (2021), The Hidden Emissions from Gas-Fired Power. Available here.


Alexandra Chevalier
Senior Communications Officer
+32 484 49 43 54