EU advisors and Poland’s PGE increase pressure over gas in green finance rules

Southern and eastern European countries are mounting pressure on the Commission, but its advisors are warning about the climate impact of gas [TATYANA ZENKOVICH / EPA-EFE]

The European Commission came under new pressure on Monday (22 February) from Poland’s biggest power producer, PGE, and its own advisors, over whether to include gas power in EU rules on sustainable finance.

PGE, which generates most of its power from coal, wants the taxonomy to view gas as a transition technology, while the Commission’s advisors pressured EU leaders not to weaken the criteria for gas.

The European Union’s sustainable finance taxonomy will define which economic activities can be labelled as “green” investments – a tool Brussels hopes will incentivise low-carbon finance and rein in greenwashing.

The Commission had hoped to finish the rules last month, but delayed them to April after a draft version triggered a surge of lobbying from EU governments and companies seeking to label gas as green.

Brussels postponed green finance rules after 10 EU states wielded veto

The European Commission was forced to delay publication of detailed implementing rules on the EU’s sustainable finance taxonomy because of the sheer number of comments received and a threat of blockage from eastern and southern EU member states, EURACTIV can reveal.

The draft rules would have labelled power plants as sustainable if they met an emissions limit of 100g of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt hour – ruling out gas plants unless they used carbon capture technology or switched to low-carbon fuels.

On Monday, power producer PGE urged Brussels to rethink the rules.

“As a transition technology, gas should be considered environmentally sustainable or at least not seriously harmful,” it said in a statement.

PGE is heavily reliant on coal, but plans to expand renewables and use gas-fuelled power as a transition fuel on the way to becoming climate neutral by 2050.

Separately, a group of Commission advisors sent a statement on Monday to EU leaders asking them not to cave in to “pressure” to weaken the draft rules for gas, which they said were based on climate science and aligned with the EU’s targets to cut planet-warming emissions.

“Unabated gas has no long term future as an energy source in the EU and elsewhere, especially as methane leaks are much higher than previously thought,” said the statement, signed by representatives of six groups who sit on the Commission’s panel of advisors – including the Climate Bonds Initiative, Climate-KIC and WWF – plus NGOs including Bellona.

Gas produces roughly half the CO2 emissions of coal when burned in power plants and far lower air pollution. However, there are growing concerns that associated leaks of methane from gas infrastructure could cancel out any benefits.

EU green finance advisors asked to clarify 'transition' to net-zero climate goal

The European Commission has asked advisors to rework the EU’s green finance taxonomy rules after member states rejected draft implementing guidelines, unhappy about the exclusion of gas as a “transition” activity towards net-zero emissions.

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