EU climate taxonomy imperils nature and climate - WWF opposes final Act

Posted on April, 21 2021

Rules classify harmful tree burning for energy as 'sustainable'
EU rules published today classify industrial logging and the burning of trees and crops for energy as ‘sustainable’ investments. This is catastrophic news for the climate and biodiversity, and is the opposite of the aim of the rules, or ‘EU taxonomy’, which is to stamp out greenwashing in the finance sector. 

This turns the science-based taxonomy to a lobby-based taxonomy. Accordingly WWF is left with no choice but to ask the European Parliament and Council to reject the European Commission’s Act. This is despite our longstanding support for the initiative, and our work as part of the EU Technical Expert Group (TEG) and EU Platform on Sustainable Finance developing Taxonomy criteria recommendations. 

Sébastien Godinot, WWF EU economist said:
The Commission’s final taxonomy on forestry and bioenergy does not acknowledge the environmental challenges we face. It has been strongly influenced by unbalanced lobbying by Finland and Sweden: it is at odds with environmental science, discredits the taxonomy and creates a disastrous precedent. The EU Council and Parliament must stand up for science and force the Commission to start again from scratch on these areas. In the meantime it must ensure that the flawed Renewable Energy Directive, which the bioenergy taxonomy is based on, is fixed in the current revision process.”(1)

The European Commission did decide, after much controversy, to push back a decision on gas criteria to a later point, together with nuclear. This was a necessary step, since fossil fuels and nuclear power are unsustainable. However, the Commission did commit to reviewing these activities after the summer, opening a serious risk that they will be included in the green taxonomy at the end of the year. The Commission needs to make clear that gas and nuclear will not be part of the green taxonomy once and for all.

The taxonomy rules were published in the form of a delegated act. The European Parliament and Council will now have four months to accept or reject it. If neither institution holds a vote or demands an extension of the deliberation period, the Taxonomy will be considered to have been approved.

At the same time, the Commission published its long-awaited Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive proposal (NFRD reform). WWF welcomes the Commission’s intent to improve sustainable corporate transparency, and elements such as mandatory sector-specific EU sustainability reporting standards. However, it remains concerned over the limited scope of the proposal: some SME disclosure is necessary in high impact sectors. Read the full NGO analysis.

(1) Scientific research finds that burning trees for bioenergy increases emissions for decades compared to fossil fuels.  A new JRC report from the Commission itself, published in January 2021, finds that 23 out of the 24 bioenergy scenarios evaluated in the report pose a risk to climate, biodiversity or both, and even the remaining scenario could increase emissions for up to twenty years. This vindicates what scientists and NGOs have been saying for years. The EU must radically tighten bioenergy rules now before more damage is done.

Sébastien Godinot
Economist, WWF European Policy Office
+32 489 46 13 14

Sarah Azau
Media Manager, WWF European Policy Office
+32 473 57 31 37
Brown bear (Ursus arctos), in an old-growth forest.
© Ola Jennersten / WWF-Sweden