EU energy infrastructure plans full of fossil fuels

24 November 2017

Gas industry 'wish list' hidden behind climate spin

Brussels, November 24 – As EU Climate Commissioner Cañete claims the "transition to a low-carbon society is becoming the new reality" in the EU in his State of the Energy Union address, a list of major infrastructure projects published today by the European Commission is full of fossil fuel projects and represents 'a step closer to climate chaos' according to Friends of the Earth Europe, which slammed the selection. The list of 'Projects of Common Interest' (PCI) eligible for EU public subsidies shows the extent of Europe's addiction to fossil fuels.

The European Commission is presenting the selection as a decrease in fossil fuel projects – to 53 gas projects, compared to 77 in the previous list – but this is only the result of the grouping and clustering of multiple projects. In total, today's list includes around 90 gas projects and represents an increase in gas plans.

The list comes two weeks after new research showed that EU countries can afford just nine more years of burning gas and other fossil fuels at the current rate before they will have exhausted their share of the Earth's remaining carbon budget for maximum temperature rises of 2°C. [2] For 1.5°C, gas and other fossil fuels would need to be phased out even faster.

Replacing oil and coal with gas today would allow only three more years of carbon emissions at best, dashing the idea that gas is a low-carbon energy source or that it can be a 'transition fuel' to renewables.

Antoine Simon, extractive industries campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "The EU's PCI list should be the cornerstone of the transition to sustainable energy but with more than 90 gas projects earmarked for support, it is an industry wish list, not a list of common interest. We should not be fooled by some clever numbering and clustering - this selection represents an increase in gas projects and illustrates the immense lobby influence of the gas industry. These new projects will keep Europe hooked on dirty energy long after we need to phase-out all fossil fuels to limit temperature increases to internationally agreed levels."

In the last four years PCI gas projects have received more than €1 billion of public financial support – twice as much as electricity projects. 

In October, 109 environmental groups wrote to the European Commission urging it to stop promoting and financially supporting the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure, including gas.

Colin Roche, extractive industries campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "Just last week at the UN climate talks the EU was claiming to be a climate leader yet here it is locking us in to a fossil fuel future.

"Mr Cañete needs a reality check if he believes today's announcement represents the 'reality' of a transition to a low-carbon economy. All the spin in the world can't cover up that the European Commission is attempting to push through large scale investment in fossil fuel infrastructure at taxpayers' expense. Only a total fossil fuel phase-out through energy savings, and 100% renewables is a solution to the climate crisis."

Today's Commission communication opens a two month period when the European Parliament and European Council can object to the list. In the absence of objection, the list will be approved.

The European Parliament and Energy Ministers are concurrently finalising their respective positions on the 'Clean Energy for all Europeans' package of eight legislative proposals that will guide energy policy up to 2030, seeking to cut emissions, save energy and boost renewables.