EU countries pile pressure on Brussels to change green finance rules on bioenergy

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission has come under fresh pressure to change its planned rules on what counts as a sustainable investment, with 10 EU countries saying the criteria for bioenergy are too restrictive.

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium August 21, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman//File Photo

Brussels is facing resistance on multiple fronts to its sustainable finance taxonomy, a list of economic activities that from next year will define what can be labelled as “green” investments.

The rules aim to steer much-needed cash into genuinely sustainable projects but, with countries pushing back on planned rules for natural gas and bioenergy, the European Union has delayed finishing them to late April.

In a letter dated March 10, ten countries urged the Commission to change its proposal on power produced from bioenergy - products such as forest residues or agricultural waste.

“All forms of solid, gaseous and liquid bioenergy fuels that are sustainable under the Renewable Energy Directive must be declared long-term sustainable energy sources,” said the letter, signed by ministers from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden.

To qualify as a sustainable investment, the Commission had said bioenergy should meet tougher criteria than it currently faces under existing EU renewable energy rules.

That included an 80% saving in greenhouse gas emissions compared with fossil fuels -- beyond the 70% saving currently required for bioenergy to be classed as renewable.

Introducing tougher criteria for bioenergy “counteracts” the EU’s aim to promote investments in renewable energy, the letter said.

“The Commission’s proposal on bioenergy should be revised,” said Anders Ygeman, energy minister for Sweden, which has the most forest area of any EU country.

The countries’ position was at odds with that of campaigners. Green group WWF said the Commission’s proposal should in fact be made more restrictive, to avoid some high-emitting types of bioenergy being classed as a sustainable investment.

Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Kirsten Donovan