Priority status for EU fossil fuel projects raises green hackles


FILE PHOTO: A European Union flag flies outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 19, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European lawmakers on Wednesday approved the European Union’s list of priority energy projects that are eligible for up to 30 billion euros ($33.5 billion) in funding, ignoring objections over its inclusion of fossil fuel schemes.

The European Commission, the EU executive, has made carbon neutrality by 2050 one of its top priorities and plans to formalize it with its first-ever climate law in February.

Environment campaigners and Green politicians have raised concerns that the list’s inclusion of fossil fuel projects and gas infrastructure is incompatible with the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the EU’s own ambition to cut carbon emissions.

Lawmakers who won the vote in the Industry committee of the European Parliament on Wednesday say gas is an important energy source in the transition to cleaner energy because it is less carbon-intensive than coal.

“Gas is, so to speak, a bridging technology on our way to achieving our ambitious CO2 reduction goals towards 2030,” German lawmaker Christian Ehler said.

The complete list, unveiled by the EU’s executive bloc in October, comprises 151 projects that will be entitled to EU funding and accelerated planning permission.

The number of gas projects is 32, including pipelines and liquefied natural gas terminal projects to make the bloc less reliant on Russian gas.

Power interconnectors between Britain and France, Germany and Norway and Britain and Norway as well as hydro-pumped electricity storage and interconnectors between Baltic states are also on the list.

The priority energy projects still need approval from the full Parliament, which is expected to vote on the issue at its next plenary session in Strasbourg in February.

Reporting by Jakub Riha and Marine Strauss @StraussMarine; editing by Barbara Lewis

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