Taxonomy: EU Commission doublespeak on gas

Posted on 11 March 2022

Ukraine crisis provides clear proof: fossil gas is a source of energy insecurity and should not be incentivised with ‘green’ label
Less than 24 hours after publishing its plan to cut EU dependence on Russian gas (1), and as President Ursula von der Leyen called for the EU to ‘get rid of its dependency on fossil fuels’ (2), the European Commission has kick-started the final stage in the possible approval of gas as a 'green' investment. 

By transmitting a law which would classify gas as ‘sustainable’ - to the EU Parliament, the Commission has paved the way for new gas plants to receive billions of euros of financing. This law is the second chapter of the EU Taxonomy of Sustainable Investments, an official list of ‘green’ sectors meant to guide investors. WWF supports a science-based Taxonomy and opposes this greenwashed Act.

The European Commission had justified its original inclusion of gas in the Taxonomy on the grounds that it provided energy security while renewables cannot (3). The new geopolitical context, however, has seen gas become a key source of energy instability and insecurity, rendering this argument void. Yesterday, an expert from the French bank Natixis clarified that: ‘Energy security and supply was one of the arguments made by the Commission in favour of gas, but this has backfired’(4).

Sebastien Godinot, Senior Economist at WWF European Policy Office, said: 
‘It's astounding: overnight, the Commission has moved from "gas must go" to "gas is green". Its claims that gas is needed for energy security are hollow: current events show gas to be a higher geopolitical risk than ever. The only way forward for the Commission to be consistent in this time of crisis is to withdraw the gas Taxonomy Act’.

As European consumers struggle to cope with higher gas bills and the inflation crisis principally generated by volatile gas supplies, the European Union’s decision would lock the continent into more fossil gas dependency. EU surveys have found that most EU citizens think reducing all fossil fuel imports would bring economic and security benefits(5).

The Commission’s move sets off a critical four-month countdown in which the Parliament must decide whether it wants to prevent the list from being approved. WWF calls on MEPs to ask the Commission to withdraw the Complementary Delegated Act and, if that does not happen, to build a majority to reject it.

For more information:

Ines Abbas 
Communications Officer 
+32 488 99 27 65
iabbas@wwf.eu

Notes to editors:

(1) COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS (2022). REPowerEU: Joint European Action for more affordable, secure and sustainable energy. Available online.
(2) Ursula von der Leyen, Tweet 05 March 2022. Available online.
(3) European Commission (2022), COMMISSION DELEGATED REGULATION (EU) …/... of XXX amending Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/2139 as regards economic activities in certain energy sectors and Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/2178 as regards specific public disclosures for those economic activities.  Available online.
Recital 4, page 8, states: ‘it is necessary to lay down technical screening criteria for the use of fossil gas in high-efficiency co-generation of power, heating and cooling, and efficient district heating and cooling, where such electricity generation, high-efficiency co-generation of power, heating and cooling, and efficient district heating and cooling does not yet comply with that appropriate threshold (...). All those economic activities should be qualified as transitional under Article 10(2) of Regulation (EU) 2020/852, given that renewable energies that comply with the appropriate threshold are not yet commercially available at a sufficient scale to cover the energy demand in a continuous and reliable manner (emphasis ours)’.
(4)  Environmental Finance, Ukraine invasion 'could lead to EU taxonomy opposition', 9 March 2022.
(5)  European Commission (2021), Survey: Citizen support for climate action. Available online
The survey finds that 70% of EU citizens ‘agree that reducing fossil fuel imports from outside the EU can increase energy security and benefit the EU economically.