Europe notebook: Climate goals for 2030 begin to come unstuck as costs weigh

Plus, the EU's new list of sustainable economic activities draws fire from gas lobby

(Stephen Rae is the former Group Chief Editor of INM, Ireland’s largest online and print media group. He serves on the board of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). He was appointed by the European Commission to its High Level Expert Group on Online Disinformation and is the publisher and editor of AML Intelligence, about global money laundering.)

DUBLIN (Callaway Climate Insights) — Waking up to the huge change which will be required by carbon reductions of 60% in 2030, European business has shown some anxiety pains.

The powerful EU-wide lobby BusinessEurope claims the European Commission was over-optimistic when analyzing the costs and benefits of raising the climate goals.

Challenging Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s assertion that stretchy climate policies are the bloc’s new “growth strategy,” industry is pointing out there are too many uncertainties in the Commission’s own impact assessment to make such a claim.

“Every core scenario” in the cost-benefit analysis accompanying the Commission’s 2030 climate target plan, “is conducted with pre-Covid-19 data and does not take (the pandemic’s) economic impacts into account,” said the group. What makes the claims influential is that BusinessEurope is the umbrella organization representing the industry lobby in 35 European countries and representing 20 million companies.

“In our view, there needs to be a broader approach when implementing Europe’s recovery plan and to focus much more on how to turn the Green Deal into a real growth driver,” the group stressed.

But one of Europe’s top employers immediately hit back at the claims. Unilever (UL) CEO Alan Jope, said: “One of the most dangerous mindsets in the world is to set up a false dichotomy between sustainability and economic growth. The low-carbon revolution will be a booming space for jobs. We strongly support the EU 2030 target — good for the environment, good for livelihoods, good for growth.”

Two years ago, a leaked internal memo from BusinessEurope revealed the association’s plans to “oppose” any increase in the EU’s climate ambition for 2030, by “using the usual arguments” that Europe cannot take action on its own.

Europe’s united front on the 2030 goals is beginning to come unstuck.

There is no doubt that BusinessEurope is now finally awake to what is in store — which makes me feel the 60% reduction by 2030 will ultimately be replaced by the original 55% target.

Investors have been encouraged to check out “the world’s first ever green list” of sustainable economic activities, published by Europe’s financial services commissioner.

The draft guidelines under the EU’s green finance taxonomy are aimed at steering private investors towards environmentally sustainable companies, listing detailed emissions thresholds considered sustainable.

Commissioner Mairead McGuinness hopes it will prevent greenwashing by giving investors clear guidance on what is acceptably climate friendly.

“The EU’s Taxonomy Regulation is a key piece of legislation that is central to the European Green Deal. It will be instrumental in channeling investment to green and sustainable projects,” the Irish commissioner said.

The two texts cover such economic areas as agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, plastics, energy, water supply, waste management, transport, construction, energy efficiency, communication and research activities.

Already it has come under some criticism from the gas lobby who could miss out on billions of euros of private funding unless they can produce less carbon to qualify for the all-important green label. Transport will be impacted, with new-vehicle zero-emission targets for manufacturers starting in 2025.

The European Commission will consider feedback up to year-end before finalizing the adoption of the list. The draft will then be scrutinized by the European Parliament and Member States before coming into play on Jan. 1, 2022.