Right now, the work on criteria for the mining industry in the current taxonomy is at an important stage. The first proposal * will be presented at the end of July.
– We are currently very concerned about where the process will land for the mining industry, says Hanna Stenegren, expert in climate, energy and Sustainable Finance, Svemin.
The expert group (platform), which decides on the proposal to the Commission, consists of people from the banking and finance sector, environmental organizations and other NGOs, as well as industry. Unfortunately, there is only one person with experience in the mining industry in the working group (sector team) who produces the proposal for the expert group. In the expert group which then makes a decision on the proposal, there is no mining representative at all. The imbalance in the group worries the industry.
– It is obvious that there are strong forces that are only interested in tripping up the mining industry in Europe – we also see this in other ongoing EU processes. If they are allowed to dictate the conditions so that the extraction of the critical minerals and metals that we need in climate transition can not take place in Europe, then they play directly into the hands of China, which Europe is 100 percent dependent on imports for certain metals required for electric cars, wind turbines and solar panels, says Hanna Stenegren.
– To think that it is okay to continue to be totally dependent on China to achieve our climate goals in Europe instead of extracting these metals here in a much more environmentally, climatically and socially sustainable way is completely incomprehensible to me – but that’s what’s happening.
The process of developing the classification is complicated to say the least. In order for an activity to be classified as environmentally sustainable, it must, in addition to achieving certain minimum requirements for sustainability, “contribute significantly” to one or more of six established environmental goals –
- limiting climate change
- adaptation to climate change
- sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources
- transition to a circular economy
- pollution prevention and control
- protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems
At the same time, the activities must “not cause significant damage” to any of the other goals.
That the criteria for “not causing significant damage” become reasonable and achievable are extremely important because these must be met for all six environmental goals in order for an activity to be considered sustainable at all.
– Compliance with the applicable legislation and the requirements that the activities have in their permits should be an obvious starting point for not being considered to cause significant damage. But in the working group for the mining industry, there are members who do not think it is enough and want to go unreasonably much further, and who also refuse to find reasonable compromises. This creates great concern for the industry, says Hanna Stenegren.
Obstacles for the industry
The Swedish mining industry has good opportunities to contribute to all environmental goals and has participated in the work with constructive and ambitious proposals, backed by concrete examples of how companies work with, for example, reduced climate emissions, biodiversity and circular economy. But these have been blocked and do not seem to even move forward in the process.
That the process results in unreasonable criteria or – even worse – no criteria at all would be devastating. This would mean that the Commission is slowing down an important driver for change and development in the EU mining industry. It would also risk negatively affecting funding opportunities, investment support, insurance, guarantees, market competition, research funding, and lending – something that would cost and probably delay the ongoing transition to a fossil-free society, more circular economy and increased biodiversity efforts that the industry is currently undergoing.
The process ahead
When the expert group within the Platform for Sustainable Financing has made its decision on proposed criteria, these will be based on so-called public consultation from the end of July to mid-September. Then everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the platform’s proposal. In November, the platform will present its report, which will then be presented to the Commission in November. The Commission will then present its proposal for a delegated act, which in turn will lead to a new public consultation at the end of the year. However, there is an imminent risk that the schedule will be delayed, due to delays in the early parts of the process.
* Proposal for criteria for an economic activity to be classified as environmentally sustainable.