Fossil gas, burning trees and flying labelled as ‘sustainable’ or ‘transitional’

Brussels – Major concessions to polluting industries under new EU sustainable finance rules, leaked on Monday by Contexte, would stab the EU green deal in the heart, said Greenpeace.

After months of intense lobbying in Brussels, a host of industries – from gas to bioenergy, to aviation and nuclear power – are poised to cash in under the draft of the European Commission’s so-called taxonomy. [1] The taxonomy investment rulebook will establish what the EU considers as sustainable investments, eligible for hundreds of billions in investments under the EU’s coronavirus recovery package and private funds.

Greenpeace EU green recovery spokesperson Ariadna Rodrigo said: “The leak shows that the EU Commission is abandoning all pretense of advancing the European green deal through its sustainable finance rules. Instead of focussing on proven solutions like home insulation and renewables, it would allow taxpayers’ money and private investments to fund destructive industries – a green recovery in name only. The EU taxonomy was supposed to be the gold standard of green investments, but it looks set to become a greenwashing exercise.”

The Commission’s plan now includes entirely new fossil gas categories for district heating and cogeneration (combined heat and power) and has lowered the threshold for emissions savings for the production of hydrogen, matching demands made by the gas industry at the end of 2020. [2] 

Requirements for “improved” or “additional” forest management practices that would encourage funding for more climate or nature friendly forestry have been removed, leaving almost all kinds of forest harvesting eligible for green funding – in line with the demands of Nordic governments and their industries. [3]  

The Commission has created a new category for so-called ‘transitional’ activities, which include aviation, which the European Environmental Agency says is the most carbon intensive transport mode. [4]

The Commission has also left the door open for nuclear energy, which was rejected by the Commission’s Technical Expert Group last year because it did not meet the EU’s ‘Do No Significant Harm’ principle [5]. The Commission has promised to revise the text after an opinion by its Joint Research Council.

At the end of 2019, 123 scientists wrote to the Commission about their concerns that the taxonomy was not going to deliver climate neutrality by 2050. [6]

Once officially published in April, European governments and the European Parliament will have two months to formulate any objections to the final financial rules on climate. If they do not, the text will automatically enter into force.

Notes to editors:

[1] For some examples of industry lobbying on the taxonomy see reports by: Influence Map (December 2020) and Reclaim Finance (August 2020).

[2] Letter by 57 energy companies, 19 October 2020.

[3] Sweden’s response to the taxonomy consultation, 18 December 2020.

[4] CO2 emissions from passenger transport

[5] On 9 March 2020, the Technical Expert Group on Sustainable Finance (TEG), established by the European Commission, recommended excluding nuclear power from the green taxonomy at this stage, and included this recommendation in the technical annex of their report (page 211).

[6] Letter by 123 scientists.



Ariadna Rodrigo – Greenpeace EU green recovery spokesperson: +32 (0)479 99 69 22, [email protected]

Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911, [email protected]

For breaking news and comment on EU affairs:

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. We do not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties. We have over three million supporters, and offices in more than 55 countries.

EU Transparency Register: 9832909575-41