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BP 'lobbying to weaken' EU green investment: watchdog

Patrick GALEY
·4-min read
The EU's "green taxonomy" classification system, set to be published Wednesday, seeks to define what constitutes sustainable investment as the bloc moves towards the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050

Oil giant BP is pushing the European Union to weaken what qualifies as a sustainable energy source, which could make it "more challenging" for the bloc to meet its net-zero emissions goal, an industry watchdog told AFP.

The European Commission will publish Wednesday a "green taxonomy" classification system defining what constitutes as sustainable investment as the EU moves towards carbon neutrality by 2050.

As part of the process, a group of experts were tasked with setting criteria, including emissions thresholds, for various infrastructure, energy, agriculture and transport sectors consistent with the temperature goals of the Paris climate agreement.

A leak of the taxonomy list last month raised an outcry from NGOs, experts and members of the European Parliament, in particular over the inclusion of gas as a partially sustainable energy source.

BP's submission to the list recommends that natural gas have its "own dedicated threshold... to reflect its role to facilitate an affordable and fair energy transition".

Influence Map, an energy industry watchdog, said BP is "lobbying to weaken the EU Technical Expert Group's science-based guidance on achieving net-zero".

"BP says it will advocate for policies that are consistent with net-zero by 2050," Rebecca Vaughan, Influence Map's programme manager who analysed BP's submission, told AFP.

"This is an opportunity to see whether it really lives up to those expectations or not, and it really doesn't."

- Biggest power emissions source -

In a list of 10 pledges last year, BP said it wanted "more active advocacy for policies that support net zero".

In a statement to AFP, BP said: "We strongly support the EU's climate goals, which are in line with our purpose of reimagining energy and our net zero ambition. We welcome the intention of the taxonomy regulation and appreciate the work the EU Commission is doing to encourage sustainable investments."

Under the taxonomy guidelines, certain products for which no low- or zero-carbon alternative currently exists -- such as cement or steel -- may be included as a "transitional activity" if they meet certain criteria.

BP's submission calls for an "appropriate threshold" for natural gas that "could enable the transition" to the emissions threshold deemed by experts to be consistent with the Paris agreement.

A company spokesman told AFP that gas "can enable the shift away from coal in power and complement renewables".

"We think this should be reflected with an initially higher threshold that could be progressively lowered over time," the spokesman said.

But Vaughan said that natural gas could not be considered transitional since low- and zero-carbon alternatives such as wind and solar energy already exist.

"The technical expert group has very clearly laid out what it considers to be compliant with net-zero by 2050," Vaughan said.

"Here is BP arguing for more lenient definitions for more transitional activities that really just don't fit within the scope of what the expert group proposes."

An analysis of the EU's emissions trading scheme last week showed that natural gas is now the bloc's single biggest source of power-sector emissions, overtaking lignite coal for the first time last year.

The United Nations says that emissions must fall 7.6 percent globally each year this decade in order to keep the 1.5C temperature cap laid out in the Paris deal in play.

Instead, emissions are set to increase this year by almost five percent, amounting to the second-biggest leap in CO2 as the world recovers from Covid-19, the International Energy Agency said Tuesday.

- 'Significantly weaker' -

A European Commission source told AFP it was currently unclear whether gas and nuclear would appear within the first EU text on taxonomy on Wednesday, or if it would be included at a later date.

BP's submission also recommends the "inclusion of developing both green and blue hydrogen".

Whereas green hydrogen is produced using renewable energy, blue hydrogen comes from fossil gas.

Vaughan said this proposal was "significantly weaker than the expert group's approach".

"The taxonomy is a great way of understanding if companies are being Paris-aligned because it's the closest thing we have to a science-based policy," she said.

"At the same time as BP is promoting its net zero plan, it is advocating for changes that would make it more challenging for Europe to reach its own net zero goal."

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