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Remarks by Commissioner McGuinness at the press conference on the Sustainable Finance Package

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op woensdag 21 april 2021.

Thank you Valdis.

We have set our destination in Europe. We will and intend to be climate neutral by 2050. And today's package is part of the roadmap to achieve that target.

I was reflecting this morning that just last year I was involved in negotiating the Parliament's position on Climate Law. So I was really happy with this morning's news that the Parliament and Council have agreed to put our targets into law.

But being ambitious in words one thing. What we now need to do is turn words into action. And in one sense, today's package is about real world action to achieve climate neutrality.

The role of the financial system is absolutely crucial in this. Valdis has outlined the enormous amount of investment that is required to achieve our targets. And public money will not be sufficient.

Harnessing private investment for sustainable projects is absolutely key, The package today gives those that are investing the knowledge of what is sustainable but equally gives companies the tools to use in order to provide information to the markets.

Valdis said, and I thought it was very poignant, that this as not been an easy process. In fact, if it were an easy process I would be concerned.

Of course this is difficult. This is transformational beyond our wildest thoughts because we now know within a short few years every single sector of our society and our economy, will have to be rapidly transformed in order for us to achieve our climate targets and indeed to reverse other environmental problems.

But this is ground-breaking and I think that's something that we should not lose sight of today as Europeans. Today we have adopted a credible taxonomy. It's credibility is based on science. I wanted a proposal that would affect real change and I was never prepared for a fudge.

Much more work will need to be done on some sectors but today credibility does and has to underpin all of our work because frankly if it doesn't, the markets will reject it.

This hasn't happened over night. There have been years of hard work gone into today's proposal. And if I may, because some are in the room, thank my colleagues and my cabinet and the DG but equally, I think across all of the college there as been huge engagement.

Briefly in relation to the Taxonomy, published today, yes it sets our criteria for those economic activities that make a substantial contribution to our climate goals.

And this is something that the market has been calling for. They want clarity on what is green.

We want to help investors and companies make decisions based on a credible and science-based assessment of what is sustainable.

And if you look at the detail, the Delegated Act covers economic activities in sectors that are responsible for nearly 80pc of direct greenhouse gas emissions in Europe. That's 80pc. So we are covering a huge amount of economic activity, from manufacturing, transport, construction, insurance, even the arts are included in this. So this is a very, very wide package.

Valdis has dealt with some of the issues that will we addressed later. I want to stress that this Taxonomy is a living document. It is not just once off, it will evolve with science and technology and when we review our legislation which will eventually occur.

I also want to acknowledge that the colleagues on the platform of Sustainable Finance did incredible work - detailed and scientific - to allow us today to publish a scientifically based delegated act.

On land use, we have decided for good reason that in agriculture we will wait until the reform of the CAP is completed and we will revisit that sector, hopefully by the end of this year.

Forestry as land use is included and we equally will be reviewing the criteria in line with the evolution of our Forestry Strategy and legislation.

Another key part of our work today is on this CSRD, and again Valdis has very wisely summed this up.

We focus today on financial information - cold, hard figures. But the world knows that those financial, cold, hard figures do not tell the full story of a company's performance in terms of its impact on the outside world or indeed how climate and those long term issues will eventually impact on their balance sheet.

This Directive, which is a review of the NFRD, will signpost to companies the information they will need to supply around their sustainability issues.

And again, the market wants this clarity. At the moment companies can use any standards, or all standards or a mix and frankly, that market is too fragmented and too unspecific. This directive will give clarity.

We also believe that while there might be concerns about bureaucracy or red tape, when we get this right we will in my view reduce red tape, reduce fragmentation and hopefully reduce cost. It is in our interest do that.

Again the key is to make sure that sustainability reporting is on an equal footing with financial reporting.

As someone with a long history in the past of financial issues, this is ground break because it is asking companies - whether you are in the financial or non-financial sector - to take account the wider implications of how you operate.

The third and final part of the package today is another series of delegated acts.

These involve new rules so that clients' green preferences are considered when they get investment and insurance advice.

We also have amendments on fiduciary duties so that financial entities take into account climate and environmental risks.

So in one sense what we have today is a holistic package which will chart a more sustainable future for our companies and our economies.

We're clarifying the rules on investment and insurance products so that those designing financial products and financial advisers include sustainability factors.

All of these will increase the demand for financial products with sustainability at their core and reduce greenwashing.

It is a big step, as I said, it is ground breaking and we continue to develop the EU's sustainable finance ecosystem as part of the European Green Deal.

Europe is leading the way globally on redirecting investment towards meeting the Paris Agreement.

We are making the EU economy greener, step by step, as look we look towards the recovery.

But we have to understand that the time is short and action is needed now.

Indeed for those who fear we are trying to achieve too much, look at what we have had to do in the last year. COVID-19, a pandemic, struck. Look at the changes we have had to implement because we were forced to.

In a sense, the world realises, and Europe is leading on this, it is now time for fundamental action and fundamental change.

And in the week where we have an agreement on the Climate Law, tomorrow is World Earth Day and we have this big global conversation, it's important that Europe puts itself in the global context. We're not going it alone. But we will go further and faster, and we hope that those who are on board and want to deliver on climate and the targets of the Paris Agreement will come with us on this journey. Because there is a generation that want and need this action.

Thank you.

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