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Study considers how to assess ‘green’ investment in rail

EUROPE: The European Commission has published a study into criteria used to classify railway assets and activities as environmentally sustainable, and to provide insights into potential ‘greenwashing’.

This is intended to facilitate the rail sector’s access to ‘green’ bonds, which the Commission believes could be used to finance a significant share of future rail investment.

The Development of a Methodology to Assess the ‘Green’ Impacts of Investment in the Rail Sector study was undertaken by COWI Denmark on behalf of the Commission. It considers technical screening criteria and metrics, the scope of CO₂ emissions to be included, an approach to emissions accounting and potential thresholds. It also assesses the degree to which different criteria will have an impact on investments in rail, and how they could incentivise sustainable choices.

The study points out that while rail is generally more sustainable than other modes, some activities are less environmentally-friendly than others. It says investments linked to the transport of fossil fuels should not be considered green, and that diesel trains are ‘controversial in environmental terms’ and should either be excluded or stringent thresholds used to classify only the most efficient as being ‘green’.

While the EU’s long-term energy strategy expects the electricity generation mix to become greener, the present electricity mix in specific countries means that ‘it may also be misleading to claim that electrified trains have zero green house gas emissions during operation’.

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