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EU COMMISSION SLAMMED FOR BACKING GAS MEGAPROJECTS DURING COP26

New list of 30 priority energy projects worth €13 billion a danger to climate and people say NGOs

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Brussels, 10 November 2021 – Environmentalists have slammed as “dangerous and dirty” a European Commission decision, due to be presented to MEPs tomorrow, to back 30 fossil gas mega-projects worth €13 billion.[1] Even as international climate talks continue in Glasgow – where Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “it is our duty to act now” – the new edition of the Commission’s list of priority energy infrastructure developments sees EU backing given to mega-projects that lock Europe into fossil fuel dependency and exacerbate climate change.[2]

This fifth edition of the “projects of common interest” (PCI) list lends EU support to controversial gas projects like the EastMed pipeline, the Baltic Pipe, Gdansk LNG, and the Cyprus2EU LNG terminal. Projects featured on the list gain fast-track permitting privileges and the opportunity to receive EU funding via its Connecting Europe Facility.

The Commission had promised to deliver a list in line with the European Green Deal with less room for gas projects. Yet rather than stopping subsidies for fossil fuels, this fresh list will see renewed support and taxpayers’ money given to unnecessary and climate-damaging fossil fuels for the next two years and potentially much longer.[3]

The list also comes as Europe faces a gas price crisis, caused in part by over-reliance on unreliable gas, which is expected to tip millions of people into fuel poverty this winter.[4]

Colin Roche, climate justice coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe said:
“This list is a dangerous and dirty disgrace. Continuing to back fossil gas is completely out of step with the reality of the climate emergency already devastating lives around the world. Gas is holding people hostage to fuel poverty this winter – building yet more gas pipelines will only exacerbate the problem. Billions of euros have already been wasted when this cash is needed now for rolling out clean, renewable solutions and efficient warm buildings.”[5]

The PCI list process has been challenged by NGOs as lacking in transparency – with multiple EU Ombudsman enquiries [6] questioning the Commission’s decision making process, and an influential role for gas transmission companies in drawing up the list.[7]

Frida Kieninger, campaign officer at Food & Water Action said:
“We’re in the middle of a gas crisis and UN climate talks, yet the Commission’s ‘priority’ today is to increase reliance on fossil gas! These mega gas projects serve the interests of fossil fuel corporations, not the common interest of Europeans. The whole process has lacked transparency and independent oversight, with the fossil fuel industry even given a core role in the decision.”

Friends of the Earth Europe and Food & Water Action Europe are calling on the European Parliament to reject this list of gas projects. They call on the Parliament and Council to deliver a revised Trans-European Energy Networks (TEN-E) regulation – the EU law that governs the PCI list – that is free from fossil fuels.[8] And they call for a firewall to prevent fossil fuel lobbyists influencing climate decision-making.

Frida Kieninger continued:
“The next energy infrastructure law needs to finally end support for fossil fuel projects and remove fossil lobbyists from the privileged role they currently enjoy.”

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For more information, contact:

Frida Kieninger, senior campaigner, Food & Water Action Europe, [email protected], (+32) (0)487 249 905

Colin Roche, climate justice coordinator, Friends of the Earth Europe, [email protected], (+32) (0)489 598984

Robbie Blake, communications team, Friends of the Earth Europe, [email protected], (+32) (0)491 290096

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NOTES

[1] The PCI list was shared with Food & Water Action Europe and is available here https://friendsoftheearth.eu/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/European-Commission-5th-PCI-list.pdf

The NGO also calculated the number of fossil gas projects on the list and their value based on ENTSOG data in https://www.entsog.eu/tyndp#entsog-ten-year-network-development-plan-2020

[2] Earlier this year the International Energy Agency found that, to have a chance of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees, no new fossil investments must take place, and existing use of fossil fuels must be phased out. https://www.iea.org/news/pathway-to-critical-and-formidable-goal-of-net-zero-emissions-by-2050-is-narrow-but-brings-huge-benefits

[3] Since 2013, the EU has poured nearly €5 billion of taxpayers’ money into expanding Europe’s network of gas pipelines and import terminals. https://www.globalwitness.org/wastedgascash/

40 percent, or €1.5 billion, of the Connecting Europe Facility’s funds have been awarded to fossil gas projects. https://friendsoftheearth.eu/publication/how-gas-lobby-infiltrates-eu/

[4] https://www.euronews.com/2021/10/22/energy-prices-are-skyrocketing-it-s-game-over-for-gas-view

[5] €440 million of EU taxpayers’ money has been wasted on PCI gas projects which have been or are likely to be cancelled. https://www.globalwitness.org/wastedgascash/

[6] EU Ombudsman case on sustainability assessment for gas projects on the current List of Projects of Common Interest: https://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/decision/en/135095 ; EU Ombudsman case on assessing the sustainability of gas projects on the list of ‘projects of regional significance’ of the ‘Energy Community’ https://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/opening-summary/en/140685 ; Complaint to EU Ombudsman regarding the sustainability assessment criteria in the fifth Projects of Common Interest (PCI) list https://friendsoftheearth.eu/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/FWAE_FOEE_GW_Fifth-PCI-List-Complaint_22072021.pdf

[7] On The Inside: How the gas lobby infiltrates EU decision making https://friendsoftheearth.eu/publication/how-gas-lobby-infiltrates-eu/

[8] The Trans-European Energy Networks (TEN-E) regulation which governs the PCI list, is currently being revised – prompted in part by the inclusion of controversial gas projects in the Commission’s previous 2019 PCI list.

The Commission framed its proposed reforms as a way to exclude gas projects from future PCI lists and align with the goals of the EU Green Deal. https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/documents-register/detail?ref=COM(2020)824&lang=en

Yet both the EU Council and Parliament have proposed loopholes that would still leave considerable room for gas projects on future editions of the priority list. Specifically, the Parliament put forward a “grandfathering” clause that would allow all projects on the fourth and fifth list to continue to apply for PCI status, while the Council proposed derogations for the Melita Pipeline and EastMed. https://friendsoftheearth.eu/press-release/meps-fail-to-end-support-for-climate-damaging-gas/