In a Euractiv opinion piece, Timothy Suljada, Acting Head of Climate, Energy and Society Unit at SEI, and SEI Researcher Charlotte Wagner noted that the taxonomy criteria for pollution prevention and control currently under consideration by the European Commission relies on existing regulation rather than keeping in step with the ambition of the Green Deal.
One in 8 deaths in the EU is caused by environmental pollution, including air and noise pollution, climate change-associated events and chemical pollution. According to Wagner and Suljada, when it comes to chemical pollution, the criteria considered only exclude the use of regulated substances of concern.
This means that economic activities using compounds already shown to be hazardous by the science but that are not yet regulated could be considered sustainable and even “inherently safe”. Moreover, the recommended pollution prevention criteria aim to reduce pollution by comparing chemical releases to average emissions associated with best available pollution control techniques, echoing the approach taken to greenhouse gas emissions. However, chemical pollution is different to greenhouse gas emissions. Focusing on release magnitude alone ignores the fact that toxicity and exposure potential vary considerably when considering chemical pollution to soil, water and air and their impacts on human and ecosystem health.
Suljada and Wagner argue that the EU’s green finance taxonomy is about more than climate finance and with strengthened criteria, has the potential to support phasing out polluting chemicals and improve health and well-being, a founding principle of the European Green Deal.