Environmental groups challenge EU support for gas projects

Jun 6, 2022, 2:24 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 2:25 am

BRUSSELS (AP) — Campaigning groups have launched legal action to challenge a decision by the European Union’s executive arm to include 30 gas projects in a list of operations considered as beneficial to the 27-nation bloc’s energy market.

The campaigners said on Tuesday that the European Commission has given “these climate-destructive projects VIP status, in contradiction of its legal obligations.”

They said the projects are worth 13 billion euros and will lock the region into dependency on the fossil fuel that EU institutions say that they want to get rid of.

The projects, which include the Baltic Pipe Project designed to bring Norwegian gas to Poland and the development of gas infrastructure in Cyprus, are part the so-called list of Projects of Common Interest. They are eligible for funding from a program designed to boost energy, transport and digital infrastructure. The fund for the 2021-2027 period allocates a budget of EUR5.8 billion to the energy sector.

“Billions of euros are bound to be wasted on 30 major pieces of gas infrastructure,” campaigners said, highlighting the EastMed pipeline — a project to create a 1,900-kilometer (1,180-mile) pipeline to connect Eastern Mediterranean offshore gas fields to Greece and Italy.

Supporters of the gas projects argue that they would improve Europe’s energy security, particularly in the context of energy sanctions taken against Russia for its war in Ukraine. The bloc is seeking alternatives to decrease its dependence on Russian gas, which accounts for about 40% of the EU’s gas consumption.

The environmental groups said they have launched their action using a procedure allowing individuals and independent organizations to request an administrative review of legal acts adopted by EU institutions or bodies.

They requested that the EU commission review the decision that justified the inclusion of gas projects, and threatened to ask the Court of Justice of the EU to rule on the matter if it does not amend its decision

“This list amounts to a VIP pass for fossil gas in Europe, when we should be talking about its phase-out,” said Guillermo Ramo, a lawyer for the ClientEarth group. “The Commission did not consider the impact of methane emissions derived from gas infrastructure projects — in spite of evidence that these are substantial. That’s unlawful as it directly clashes with the EU’s own climate laws and its legal obligations under the Paris Agreement.”

World leaders agreed in Paris in 2015 to work to keep global temperatures from increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and ideally no more than 1.5 degrees C (2.7 F) by the end of the century. Scientists say both goals will be missed by a wide margin unless drastic steps are taken to reduce emissions.

The groups’ legal action came as European lawmakers on Tuesday debated proposals from the “Fit for 55” package set up by the Commission to achieve the EU’s climate goals of cutting emissions of the gases that cause global warming by 55% over this decade.

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Environmental groups challenge EU support for gas projects