The EU Green Deal has set a number of ambitious objectives towards 2030 and 2050. As a consequence, the European Commission will focus on strengthening direct investments in sustainable economic activities. A transition towards environmentally friendly and climate neutral transport by 2050 will be supported.

But the key question remains – when is the economic activity sustainable and thus when is it allowed to let the financial support flow towards it?

This development resulted in a publication of the EU 2020/852 Taxonomy Regulation. This regulation sets up criteria for determining whether an economic activity, like Inland Waterway Transport (IWT), qualifies as environmentally sustainable. The overall purpose is to identify to which degree an investment in that activity could be seen as environmentally sustainable.

The Taxonomy Regulation’s goal is to provide a common language among investors and policy makers by giving them indicators and definitions of which economic activities are sustainable. Regarding Inland Waterway Transport, it is therefore crucial to know if the entire sector, as well as the infrastructure, will qualify as a sustainable economic activity in order to be seen as eligible for financial investors and subsidies.

At this moment, the Commission is looking at six criteria to fill in the definition of an economic activity:

  1. Climate change mitigation
  2. Climate change adaptation
  3. The sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources
  4. The transition to a circular economy
  5. Pollution prevention and control
  6. The protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems

The European Commission opened a public consultation to receive reactions on those criteria. They will have a severe impact on the IWT sector and therefore, the organizations that represent it – EBU, ESO and the EU-IWT Platform – have responded with a feedback.

We have listed below a couple of important highlights from the replies, which are reflecting the needs of the IWT sector:

  • Firstly, a statement that the IWT sector and related economic activities rely on the financial support in order to meet the 2030 and 2050 objectives as stated in the EU Green Deal.
  • Next, an exclusion of the vessels operating for fossil fuel transport – in the Taxonomy Regulation, this is seen as a non-sustainable economic activity – is not acceptable for the sector. In practice, this would be contra productive regarding the modal shift aim of the EU Green Deal and thus it needs to be removed in order to enable financial support for this very important economic activity. The sector has underlined the importance of it for the nearby future, especially in a view of the modal shift.
  • Also, the exclusion of partly renewable and/or low-carbon fuels needs to be removed. The same statement was made here again with a reference towards the importance of seeing transport of these fuels as a sustainable economic activity, being a necessary GHG saving requirement.

We trust that the European Commission will carefully analyse and take up the feedback received from the sector in light of the 2030 and 2050 objectives.

The taxonomy should be established by the end of 2021 and will apply by the end of 2022.

Daisy Rycquart