NGO slams Climate Bonds Initiative on incinerator policy, leaves Technical Working Group

Jonathan Boyd
NGO slams Climate Bonds Initiative on incinerator policy, leaves Technical Working Group

Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) has resigned its position on the Waste Management Technical Working Group of the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) after criticising the way the CBI looks set to certify ex-EU incineration plants.

The CBI has published its Waste Management Criteria, which ZWE says "endorses waste incineration outside the EU as a sustainable investment."

"This reveals an alarming double standard in its environmental and social principles and ignores the demands of more than a hundred civil society organisations that urged CBI to protect the circular economy and the climate from this technology."

ZWE points to a letter signed by 103 organisations demanding the CBI exclude waste incineration as a climate mitigation strategy. It noted that "burning resources is not in line with the necessary transition to net-zero emissions and a circular economy."

Broader expectations are that such incineration is "very likely" to be excluded by the EU's Taxonomy targeting sustainable finance. ZWE notes that the European Council called incineration to be minimised in the Sustainable Finance Regulation passed in December 2019. This is expected to be confirmed by a vote in the European Parliament. 

"Yet, the CBI will allow the certification of climate bonds to incinerator plants outside the EU, as if those regions did not deserve the same environmental and social standards," ZWE states.

"In fact, the Global South is generally more vulnerable to the effects of climate change and the CBI's decision will only exacerbate this social and environmental justice issue, a move that will effectively cause harm to resource efficiency and increase greenhouse gas emissions at the global level."

"Furthermore, the CBI Waste Management Criteria recognise that waste incineration can be a very carbon intensive source of energy, a source of air pollution and GHG emissions when burning plastics, and a lock-in threat for local economies."

Mariel Vilella, ZWE's director of Global Strategy has been a member of the CBI Waste Management Technical Working Group since January 2017, and said: "As part of the community of scientists, practitioners in the field of waste management, policy-makers and environmental NGOs that have contributed by giving feedback and support to the CBI throughout the development of these criteria, it's extremely disappointing to report that the CBI has not followed the EU Taxonomy advice and ignored our views. Ultimately, the damage will be to the CBI's reputation as an honest evaluator and fair judge of climate solutions."

Janek Vahk, ZWE policy coordinator for Climate, Energy and Air Pollution Programme, said: "The CBI ignored the evidence about how harmful incineration can be to the climate in a move that prioritises the economic interests of this particular industry. Clearly, this is a lost opportunity for investors seeking advice about how to support climate mitigation in the waste sector."

The CBI defines itself as an investor-focused not-for-profit, that is looking for ways to use the $100trn global bond market to support climate change solutions.

Funders include the UK's Foreign & Commonwealth Office. This adds a political dimension to any failure to develop standards that can be supported by the broader investment community; the current UK chancellor of the Exchequer has promised the greenest ever Budget when it is delivered in March this year - the first Budget from the government of Boris Johnson, and the first since the UK exits the EU.

Compounding the politial dimension is the presence among the Climate Bond Partners of the CBI of the French Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, and the Swiss Confederation. 

There is a heavy presence of key institutional investors as well as funds data and information services providers, such as S&P Dow Jones, Refinitiv, Bloomberg, MSCI and Moody's among the funders/partners. Disagreements over certification standards could have a knock-on effect on the ability to provide data required to meet carbon reporting requirements being placed on investors.


Jonathan Boyd
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Jonathan Boyd

Editorial Director of Open Door Media Publishing Ltd, and Editor of InvestmentEurope.