Environment

Alarm over leaked EU plans to label gas plants as 'green'

An aerial view of natural gas power plants run by RWE Power in Hamm, Germany.
An aerial view of natural gas power plants run by RWE Power in Hamm, Germany. REUTERS - Wolfgang Rattay

Environmental groups on Tuesday expressed dismay at leaked proposals by the European Union to classify some gas plants as green-friendly investments. 

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“Gas is a fossil fuel,” said Sebastien Godinot, an economist with the World Wildlife Fund, one of 225 scientists, financial institutions and NGOs who sounded the alarm over the plan in an open letter to the EU executive. 

“The very idea of classifying it as environmentally sustainable is a disgrace.”

To avoid “greenwashing” and to set a gold standard for sustainable finance, the EU Commission has been working on a classification scheme, or taxonomy, to be finalised next month.

But divisions among the 27 members over how to classify natural gas – which consists primarily of methane – have forced Brussels to redraft its rule book.

According to a leaked document seen by RFI, gas plants that provide heating or cooling while also generating power could be considered green investments under strict conditions.

The facilities must replace “inefficient,” high-polluting power plants, and they must emit no more than 270 grams of CO2 equivalent per kWh of energy.

“Gas-fired power generation plays an important role in guaranteeing the reliability of electricity supply,” the leaked report said.

Natural gas is widely seen as key to the fight against global warming but it might be just as problematic as other fossil fuels, critics say
Natural gas is widely seen as key to the fight against global warming but it might be just as problematic as other fossil fuels, critics say AFP/File

Green economy

The EU is hoping to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050, and to achieve this goal it aims to reduce carbon emissions by 55 percent this decade.

To help deliver on this pledge, Brussels is looking to direct more capital into environmentally friendly projects.

While countries such as Denmark and Spain warn against weakening the bloc’s green ambitions, others including Poland and Germany argue that gas is a necessary stepping stone to phasing out coal.

Environmental groups who accuse the EU of having “many shades of green” say the taxonomy rules, due to take effect next year, risk becoming a greenwashing tool themselves.

“The purpose of the EU Taxonomy is to correctly label green finance: this means following the best scientific evidence on an activity’s environmental impact,” the open letter said.

“Counting gas as green ignores the significant environmental effects of methane, whose impact on climate change is up to 84 times greater than CO2.”

The EU Commission has declined to comment on the leaked proposal.

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