EU Taxonomy: 92 Civil Society Organizations Call on Financial Institutions to Reject Greenwashing

Press Release
Berlin 10.03.2022

A month after the European Commission approved the inclusion of fossil gas and nuclear energy into the EU taxonomy, 92 NGOs and CSOs call on financial institutions to reject this greenwashing attempt by excluding both energies from their “sustainable” or “green” funds and bonds. This open letter appears in the context of the war on Ukraine that serves as a painful reminder that Western democracies need to eliminate their fossil fuel dependency to curb the influence of authoritarian regimes like Russia. 

In an open letter, 92 organizations take stock of the EU Commission’s failure to deliver a “science-based” sustainable taxonomy [1]. To prevent massive greenwashing, they ask financial institutions to publicly commit to exclude both fossil gas and nuclear energy from all their products and bonds marketed as sustainable, green, or responsible. This notably entails excluding these energies from ‘article 9’ funds, defined in the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) as a fund that has sustainable investment or a reduction in carbon emissions as its objective. Financial institutions can take advantage of the specific reporting obligations for fossil gas and nuclear energy [2]. 

Nick Bryer, 350 ORG’s head of campaigns in Europe, says: “The EU knows perfectly well that financing new gas pipelines and power plants isn’t ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’. For whatever reason, they’ve caved into pressure from fossil fuel industry lobbyists, who don’t want anything to stand in the way of their profits. That means we now have to look to banks and other finance institutions to show some leadership, and make clear that you can invest in fossil gas, or you can invest sustainably - but you can't do both." 

Simone Ogno, Finance and Climate Campaigner at ReCommon says: “The EU taxonomy should establish a list of environmentally sustainable economic activities, and through these support the EU's ecological transition. Only by excluding support for fossil gas and nuclear, financial institutions will be able to call themselves 'part of the solution' to the current climate crisis.” 

The inclusion of fossil gas and nuclear energy in the EU taxonomy drives corporations and investors to count gas and nuclear in the sustainable share of their activities and investments. They will be able to finance new gas power plants and nuclear reactorsthrough bonds compliant with the EU Green Bond Standard, a move that several gas companies are already making according to Nomura International Plc [3]. The EU taxonomy could also enable financial institutions and energy companies to integrate their support to both energies in their “transition” or “carbon neutrality” plans. 

In the context of the war on Ukraine, new gas power plants or nuclear reactors running on Russian-supplied fuels can benefit from taxonomy-aligned or “sustainable” funding. Such a scenario is not unlikely: Russia accounted for 45% of EU gas imports in 2021, is the biggest gas exporter in the world, and produces about 35% of the world’s enriched uranium for nuclear reactors. The Taxonomy could thus enable Russia to continue using its fossil fuel exports as a geopolitical weapon. 

Paul Schreiber, Campaigner at Reclaim Finance, underlines: “The war on Ukraine sheds a new light on the EU Taxonomy disaster. Democratic countries must swiftly reduce their fossil fuel addiction to pull the rug out from under authoritarian fossil fuel producers like Russia [4] and fulfill their own climate pledges. However, the EU’s decision to brand fossil gas as sustainable paves the way for a renewed fossil gas dependency and gives green credentials to its producers.” 

Both fossil gas and nuclear energy are excluded from several sustainable finance standards, including the upcoming ISO taxonomy, the Canadian governments’ green bond framework or the Greenfin label. Several financial institutions opposed the inclusion of both energies in the EU taxonomy [5] and the IIGCC – an investor group made up of more than 370 institutions with more than $50 trillion of assets under management – raised its voice against gas. 

Regine Richter, Campaigner at Urgewald, says: “By opening the door to fossil gas and nuclear energy, the EU taxonomy sets the bar below major sustainable finance standards and disregards warnings coming from the financial sector. Now, to avoid shooting themselves in the foot, investors must independently exclude fossil gas and nuclear from their sustainable or green funds and bonds.” 

 

Full text of the open letter can be found here.

 

Notes 

[1] Fossil gas and nuclear energy were not included in the initial taxonomy list established by the EU’s “Technical Expert Group” (TEG). Numerous NGOs, the EU’s own Platform on Sustainable Finance, and many sustainability experts and groups – like the European organization Eurosif and the UN Principles for Responsible Investment – opposed the inclusion of fossil gas and nuclear. However, heavy industry lobbying, and high-level political interventions got the upper hand over this overwhelming concern. 

In Commissioner McGuiness’ own words, the European Commission’s February 2nd proposal that approves the inclusion of fossil gas and nuclear energy into the taxonomy is a “compromise”. The Commission was under pressure from a pro-gas and nuclear alliance spearheaded by France, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, while Germany and several other member states played an ambiguous role by championing the inclusion of at least one of either gas or nuclear. Only four countries publicly opposed the inclusion of both energies. Moreover, behind closed doors, gas and nuclear representatives had numerous meetings with EU officials. Gas companies and organizations mobilized massive resources to secure a very large number of meetings and win a “transition” status for the fossil fuel. 

A full analysis of the delegated act is available here

[2] Fossil gas and nuclear energy are considered “transitional activities” and will be subject to specific reporting. For each indicator, the presence or absence of fossil gas or nuclear in the share of activities aligned with the taxonomy as well as the relative share of fossil gas or nuclear in these activities will have to be published. 

[3] According to John Ainger and Greg Ritchie from Bloomberg, “Nomura International Plc’s gas industry clients are already in talks with the bank over potential sales of green bonds”. 

[4] See Carbon Tracker’s article “Clean energy can help undermine Russia and strengthen Europe”, from March 2, 2022. 

[5] The CEO of French Mirova has spoken publicly against the inclusion of gas in the taxonomy. Several German financial players and the Austrian RBI have spoken out against the inclusion of nuclear. Dutch financial players – including Achmea and Triodos – issued a joint statement against the inclusion of both energies, while pension funds called on the Commission to respect the EU Platform on Sustainable Finance’s opinion. The Danish Folkesparekassen and Merkur Cooperative Bank have also spoken out against the inclusion of gas. The ESG provider ISS was also clear on the lack of positive sustainability impact of nuclear and gas.

Kontakt

    Bild Anprechpartner   Dr. Ognyan Seizov

    Dr. Ognyan Seizov
    International Communication Director
    ognyan.seizov [at] urgewald.org
    +49 (0)30 863 2922-61

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