Exposes Portuguese Presidency failure to negotiate a progressive deal
27th May 2021, Brussels – A leaked version of the Energy Council’s proposed revision to the EU’s key energy infrastructure regulation – seen by NGOs – would lock in political and financial support for fossil gas for at least the next ten years.
The revision of the TEN-E regulation – that dictates which energy infrastructure projects the EU fast-tracks and finances – was devised as an opportunity to align the policy with the EU’s higher climate targets as part of the EU Green Deal. The European Commission published its proposed revision in December, which removed fossil gas projects as a category but failed to address conflicts of interest with the gas industry and left the back door open to fossil gas projects.
The draft proposals from the Council, currently under the Portuguese Presidency, are much worse. Through a process known as “blending”, projects that transport fossil gas would be eligible for EU support until 2030. Likewise, a stipulation that hydrogen must come from strictly renewable sources has been expanded to include “low carbon gases” – a term that provides a creative license to the fossil fuel industry for decades to come.
The Council has also proposed continued support for major carbon-emitting mega projects like the EastMed Gas Pipeline, that would enable huge quantities of fossil gas to be transported into Europe. Global Witness’ investigations have shown that gas from EastMed could emit more carbon than Europe’s worst polluter – Poland’s Bełchatów coal-fired power plant – and relies on a company whose founders were linked to a banking scheme that allegedly helped crash Cyprus’ economy.
The Presidency text also fails to address the disproportionate influence currently enjoyed by gas companies working through the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSO-G). Under this proposal, ENSTO-G would retain an influential say over which energy projects the EU supports. Global Witness research last year found a serious conflict of interest at the heart of this arrangement: over 80 percent of all EU fossil gas subsidies since 2013 has gone to projects ENTSO-G members are involved in.
Tara Connolly, Senior Gas Campaigner at Global Witness, said:
“Make no mistake this is absolutely a failure on behalf of the Portuguese Presidency to reach a progressive deal with Member States that is fit for the climate emergency the world is facing. It seems their strategy, despite claiming to stand for real climate action, was to accept positions that satisfied the lowest common denominators, in order to get a deal at any cost.”
“TEN-E is set to be an important test of how serious the European Union really is about leading the world on tackling climate change. Proposals from the Commission, and now the Council, fall well short of passing that test.”
“The International Energy Agency has recently said there is no room for new fossil fuel investments if the world is to keep global temperature rise to 1.5C. It is therefore even more absurd that European governments are placing themselves well behind this growing consensus.”
Earlier this month eleven EU Member States – Austria, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Luxembourg, Latvia, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden – committed to ruling out any support for fossil fuels in the TEN-E revision. This shows that a sizable group of Council members do not support the position outlined in this leak.
Having overtaken coal last year, fossil gas is now the second biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the EU. The EU requires a reduction of up to 37% in gas consumption by 2030, and a 90% reduction by 2050, to reach its own climate targets. And research has shown the fossil gas infrastructure that the EU already supports is severely underused.
The text will be discussed by EU ambassadors on 2 June ahead of the Energy Council taking place on 11 June in Luxembourg.
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