The leaked EU proposal does not classify bioenergy as unsustainable

Protests from the Nordic countries and the forest industry seem to have been heard when the European Commission now comes up with new proposals for classifying sustainable investments.

The EU’s so – called green taxonomy is there to attract investment to sustainable activities. The idea is that the classification should be a standard throughout the EU and help achieve the goal of a climate-neutral EU by 2050.

Earlier proposals from the European Commission, however, met with great opposition, with over 40,000 submissions from various quarters. Not least from the Nordic countries, the protests have been strong. There is great concern in the energy and forestry sector, which has led Prime Minister Stefan Löfven (S) to raise the issue in batches and minutes with various Commission representatives in recent times.

A revised proposal has now been leaked from the European Commission.

– It is good news that it is not possible to classify the forest as unsustainable or to place very tough restrictions on use, says Rickard Nordin, who is currently both economic and energy policy spokesperson for the Center Party.

Concerns remain about how hydropower should be classified

Magnus Berg, head of business policy at the industry organization Skogsindustrierna, is also positive – at least based on the document that was leaked.

– It is a very technical text that we are analyzing, says Magnus Berg.

Representatives of the energy giants Fortum, Uniper and state-owned Vattenfall have warned that the new investment rules could threaten energy supply in Sweden.

The reason is that hydropower, a large part of Swedish electricity production, risks being classified as unsustainable in the European Commission’s regulations.

– I have not seen how it has landed, so there remains the concern, says Rickard Nordin.

– Hydropower is absolutely crucial to cope with the transition and is needed to balance, for example, solar and wind, which in turn are classified as sustainable.

But Carl Berglöf, coordinator for taxonomy issues at the energy industry’s organization Energiföretagen, is cautiously positive.

– We have taken note of what was leaked, and our preliminary assessment is that it is positive, says Carl Berglöf.

In previous proposals, bioenergy has been seen as a technology that should only exist during a transition period, and then be phased out. But now this seems to have changed, according to Berglöf.

– It is positive. It also looks better for hydropower, he says.

– We have been critical of the fact that the environmental criteria have been so sharp, stricter than the legislation. But now we see that this has been adapted to the existing legislation.

Proposals for natural gas upset the environmental movement

Instead, the new draft causes the environmental movement to collapse the most – especially over what the Commission is said to allow in the field of natural gas.

“Gas is a fossil fuel – the mere thought of classifying it as environmentally sustainable is shameful,” says Sebastien Godinot from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), for example, in a press release.

“Fossil gas, tree burning and flying are classified as sustainable,” Greenpeace comments at the same time.

Rickard Nordin also believes that fossil gas must be removed from the final proposal, which is expected at the end of April.

– It is completely unreasonable to classify fossil fuels as sustainable, says Nordin.

– We have not seen the final version yet. But the leaked version gives mixed feelings.

Greenpeace also criticizes the fact that the Commission has, among other things, removed requirements for “improved” forestry methods.

“This allows green investments for almost all types of forest harvesting – just as the Nordic governments and their industries have demanded,” writes Greenpeace.

During the week, EU member states will be informed by the Commission of what is proposed.

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