EU Ombudswoman Acknowledges Commission’s Climate Failures

Heavily subsidized fossil gas projects lack real  climate impacts analysis

Brussels, 19 November 2020

In a final decision published today, the EU Ombudswoman confirmed that since 2013 the EU Commission has failed to conduct adequate climate/sustainability assessments for the fossil gas projects on the Projects of Common Interest (PCI) list.

Initially the EU Commission ignored any climate impacts of PCI projects and in 2019 the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG) was tasked with including a sustainability assessment in its cost/benefit analysis that they had been doing since 2013. Unfortunately, ENTSOG’s proposed approach was based on the assumption that all gas projects would automatically show only positive benefits towards CO2 mitigation, erroneously claiming a shift from coal to gas would be good for the climate, ignoring negative impacts, such as increases in greenhouse gas emissions.

In February, the EU Ombudswoman opened an official inquiry into the failure of the European Commission to consider the climate impacts of subsidized projects on the PCI list, some of which are directly linked to imported fracked gas from the United States. The inquiry is a direct result of an official complaint filed with the Ombudsman on October 29 of last year by Andy Gheorghiu, Policy Advisor for Food & Water Europe, an environmental NGO based in Brussels.

Despite the increasing pressure on the European Commission to avoid additional fossil fuel infrastructure, it adopted the Delegated Act establishing the fourth list of PCI projects – ignoring the overwhelming scientific evidence about the negative climate impacts of fossil gas, and instead relying on this flawed analysis from ENTSOG to justify more fossil fuel infrastructure.

With today’s decision the EU Ombudswoman confirms core points of the complaint, stating that “the sustainability of gas projects that were included on the fourth PCI list (and previous lists) has not been sufficiently taken into account,” and that “the Ombudsman finds it regrettable that the Commission did not attempt at an earlier stage to improve the available data and the analytical methodologies applied, so that a ranking of candidate gas PCIs based on their sustainability would have been possible”.

In its assessment, the Ombudswoman also notes that the EU’s objectives concerning climate change targets and sustainability have gained urgency with the increasing awareness of the accelerating climate crisis and concludes: “As the Commission is working on improving the methodology and data collection for assessing the sustainability of candidate gas projects for the PCI-list, the European Ombudsman considers that no further inquiries are justified at this point.”

The work on PCIs is coordinated by regional groups, dedicated to each type of energy infrastructure. The 5th PCI process already kicked-off with a meeting of TEN-E cross-regional groups on electricity, gas, smart grids and CO2 thematic areas on November 17, 2020  – with ENTSOG entering centre stage again.. The final EU Parliament’s vote on the next PCI list is expected to happen by the End of 2021.

In response to this decision, the complainant Andy Gheorghiu states:

“The Ombudswoman clearly confirms the lack of crucial climate assessments of highly subsidized fossil fuel projects for all PCI lists so far.The Commission must walk the talk and truly deliver on real climate analysis in the next list. Unfortunately, the Commission still plans to work with ENTSOG, whose biased assessment is at the very heart of the problem. A more rigorous and independent sustainability test is necessary for future PCI’s.”


For more information contact:

Andy Gheorghiu, Policy advisor, Food & Water Action Europe

Tel. +49 160 20 30 974, email [email protected]

Official complaint

Letter of the EU Ombudswoman

Assessment/Conclusion of the EU Ombudswoman