Limiting global temperature increase to 1.5°C in accordance with the Paris Agreement will necessitate drastic transformations across all sectors of the economy, as urged by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its latest assessment report. More recently, the European Commission’s long-term decarbonisation strategy called for ‘net carbon neutrality’ across all sectors of the European economy by 2050, thus demonstrating a firm commitment to retain the European Union’s leadership position in climate action. The financial sector will inevitably have a central role to play in supporting this shift towards sustainable and climate-resilient growth. In recognition of this, the Commission has taken on the task of developing a common EU methodology for the assessment and identification of ‘environmentally sustainable’ economic activities, also referred to as a ‘taxonomy’. This in turn is key to enabling well-informed investment decisions, safeguarding investment security and putting an end to greenwashing practices, which seek to exaggerate the green credentials of certain technologies. As part of this exercise, the European Commission has set up a technical expert group on sustainable finance (TEG), in order to assist in the development of such a unified classification system for environmentally- and socially-sustainable economic activities. In addition, the experts within this group are working to elaborate an EU green bond standard, benchmarks for low-carbon investment strategies, and guidance aimed at improving corporations’ climate-related disclosure. In light of these critical developments, the 17th Florence Rail Forum gathered EU policy makers, industry actors and key stakeholders from the sustainable finance field, to share valuable insights and discuss design options as well as challenges in defining an EU ‘green taxonomy’. Not least, and as implied by its title, the forum took a closer look at the role of railways in the broader green financing debate. More concretely, the forum sought to answer the following three questions: 1. Sustainability objectives and green rail projects: how can rail deliver? 2. What is the role of taxonomy and which rail projects could be covered by sustainable financing mechanisms? What are the success stories? 3. How to assess the economic and financial impact of green investments in rail? What are the primary (projects) and secondary (network) impacts, and what are the interests for investors?
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