After the corona crisis, Europe wants to focus on economic recovery and sustainability: 37 percent of investments must be 'green'.
And so there is an urgent need for a definition.
The European Commission (EC) will present it on Wednesday.
But the most controversial proposal, the question of whether new gas-fired power stations in Poland and the Czech Republic also count as a green investment, is being postponed.
The version of the
EU taxonomy of sustainable activities presented now
deals with subjects that are easier to reach agreement on, such as criteria for forestry and renewable energy.
New gas-fired power stations may also be financed in the European Union.
After a wave of criticism, whether this also counts as a green investment (in eastern Member States) will only be discussed in the autumn.
Fully sustainable in thirty years
Green investments must kill two birds with one stone: stimulate the economy and get on track for a climate-neutral future.
Europe wants to have a circular economy within thirty years.
All forms of pollution must then be a thing of the past.
In the eyes of an investor, that distant future is the day after tomorrow: investment choices in the aftermath of the corona crisis have effect for decades, and determine the feasibility of the climate goals of the Green Deal and the Paris Agreement.
See also: UN: 2021 will be decisive for the Paris Agreement
Looking at billions, everyone wants a green label
The 27 Member States therefore decided in December that 37 percent of economic recovery packages should consist of green investments. The basis seems clear: an investment is green if it advances at least one of six EU environmental goals and does not harm the other five. Examples are sustainable water management, nature conservation and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
But where billions are invested, every sector wants to be at the forefront, and member states also defend individual interests. Then it turns out that the impact on environmental goals can be subjective. Is a relatively efficient petrol car green, or is it a brake on the transition to completely emission-free cars?
For example, several controversial elements have crept into the green investment classification proposal.
Sweden and Finland do not want strict rules for forestry and biomass, and France also wants nuclear energy to count as a green investment.
Slice strategy pushes gas-fired power stations
If there is an objection from a majority of the European Parliament or the member states, the plan must be dropped. That is why the EC opted for a different strategy at the last minute: cut the plan in two - and try to agree on other things first. The discussion about whether new gas-fired power plants are green or gray will be held later.
You can look at this in two ways from a climate perspective, GroenLinks MEP Bas Eickhout told NU.nl. If a gas-fired power station replaces a coal-fired power station, it can help reduce CO2 emissions. But natural gas remains a fossil fuel and, like coal, an important source of CO2. New power stations will last for thirty years - and then we have to be climate neutral.
"We threaten to repeat in Europe the mistake that the Netherlands made earlier with new coal-fired power stations. They opened in 2015 and 2016, and have to close prematurely due to emissions - a waste of billions of taxpayers' money, including on damage claims from energy companies."
See also: RWE wants 1.4 billion euros from the State to ban coal-fired power stations
In Europe, according to Eickhout, there is already a threat of a write-off of 87 billion euros on fossil energy projects. He says the Green Deal is unfeasible if it stimulates the arrival of new gas-fired power stations. "The European Commission must be consistent and credible, and not always looking for consensus. Nice words about the fight against climate change have no meaning then."
There is also another argument, says EU expert Rem Korteweg of the Clingendael Institute: we want to reduce dependence on Russian natural gas. Building additional gas-fired power stations in eastern Member States is then a step in the wrong direction.
According to Korteweg, there is also a greener alternative to replace Eastern European coal-fired power stations: connecting the European electricity grid. Then a surplus of Spanish solar power and Norwegian hydropower can also reach the Czech Republic and Poland - as a foundation for a fully climate-neutral future.