Lawmakers criticize EU support for fossil gas projects undermining Green Deal –

Energy projects incompatible with Europe’s climate goals are about to be granted priority status by the European Commission, EU lawmakers warned on Thursday (November 11th).

Their concern came in response to the EU’s draft list of cross-border energy infrastructure – known as projects of common interest (PCI) – which the European Commission is due to present next week.

Projects included in the list – the fifth of its kind adopted by the EU executive – can receive fast track approvals and access to EU funding. And while the majority are now focused on power interconnections, reflecting the EU’s shift to renewables like wind and solar, 74 gas projects have applied to be on the list.

“Madam President, let me give you the good, the bad and the ugly,” said Martin Hojsik, a Slovak MEP from the centrist political group Renew Europe in the European Parliament.

“The good one – there is no oil. The bad – you rent smart grids, but instead of [fourth PCI list] when there were six projects, there are only five. And the ugly – obviously the gas, ”he said.

Hojsik was addressing a representative of the European Commission who presented the draft PCI list to the parliamentary committee on industry, research and energy.

In response, the EU official acknowledged the missing smart grid project, saying he had removed his candidacy from the list. Yet the EU’s attention is now focused mainly on power interconnections, while the remaining gas projects aim to help the transition to coal, the official replied.

But the tirade of criticism continued from lawmakers, who said the plan was not in line with Europe’s goals of rapidly decarbonizing and switching to renewable energy sources.

“Rather, it seems to be a tool of the kind of energy policy of the past,” said Claudia Gamon, an Austrian lawmaker from the centrist group Renew.

In addition, there is a missing link between the draft PCI list and Europe’s climate ambition, including the next European gas directive, added Christian Ehler of the center-right European People’s Party (EPP).

Several MEPs have called for adjusting or removing the list, which has been negotiated with EU countries.

“Dear colleagues, I ask you to reject this list. And Madam Director, I know that there are many pressures from different sides and that you are even under pressure. [member] States that must meet their climate goals, but there are 100% renewable alternatives. So let’s take up the challenge and propose a new list, ”said Marie Toussaint, Green MEP.

The meeting in Parliament comes as EU leaders push for increased ambition at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

The current energy crisis, which has seen retail energy prices quadruple in some places, is forcing Europe to accelerate its exit from fossil fuels, according to EU climate chief Frans Timmermans and EU commissioner. energy Kadri Simson.

But at the same time as Timmermans negotiates climate ambition at COP26, “this same Commission is proposing a new PCI list with gas projects included without any proper checks on their sustainability,” said Ville Niinistö of the Greens.

The hydrogen industry has also criticized the list, with industry group Hydrogen Europe saying “there is a mismatch between the ambitions of the EU’s Green Deal and the current list of projects”.

“Any new gas project must be scalable and ready for hydrogen. A clear focus on building a hydrogen backbone is necessary to decarbonize the EU economy and ensure the security of clean energy supply, ”Hydrogen Europe CEO Jorgo Chatzimarkakis told EURACTIV. .

Gas projects would emit more than Austria and Denmark combined

Europe needs to quickly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet its climate targets, but the draft list means renewed support for unnecessary and climate-damaging fossil fuels, environmental NGOs have warned.

The fossil gas pipelines, LNG terminals and storage facilities on the list would produce more emissions than Austria and Denmark combined, according to analysis by Global Witness, an international NGO.

“We are on track for a catastrophic level of global warming that would make the planet uninhabitable for billions of people – ending public support for fossil fuel projects should be the absolute bare minimum for climate policy,” Tara said Connolly, NGO gas campaign manager.

€ 5 billion has already been spent on expanding Europe’s network of gas pipelines and import terminals since 2013, according to Global Witness, which says 40% of EU funds available for listed projects have gone to gas fossil.

There are fears that this money could be wasted as Europe switches from gas to renewables, making much of the infrastructure redundant.

Investments required for the transition

However, the European Commission has pushed back the criticism, saying the inclusion of electricity interconnections and smart grids will be key to helping the energy transition, which is expected to see Europe become more dependent on electricity.

Mechthild Wörsdörfer, deputy director general of the energy department of the European Commission, told MEPs that there were no oil projects or new gas projects, only projects taken from previous lists.

“We have reduced the number of gas projects. But in the current framework, we see that some are still needed, ”she said.

“Some of the others are coal-gas switches. For some countries or regions where there is still a lot of coal, we have now chosen to include gas as a temporary transitional solution. Obviously, in the medium and long term, we all agree that this needs to be further reduced, ”added Wörsdörfer.

The gas industry also supports this position. Bronagh O’Hagan of the gas industry body Eurogas told EURACTIV: “As far as gas is concerned, the PCI list, like the TEN-E revision, should focus on the phasing out of coal and the security of supply where applicable ”.

“With the ongoing review, we have seen within the institutions that some Member States will continue to need support on these points,” she added.

> Read the draft list of projects here:

Annex Draft list DR 5th PCI

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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