Tomorrow, the European Commission will come together with national representatives in Brussels for a final meeting to agree on the 3rd EU list of energy ‘Projects of Common Interests’ (the so called ‘PCI List’)*. These PCIs are key energy infrastructure projects that aim to create an integrated EU energy market. On the Commission website, it is highlighted that they are supposed to help deliver Europe’s climate and energy objectives and boost the level of renewables on the grid, thereby bringing down carbon emissions. PCIs benefit from accelerated permitting procedures and improved regulatory conditions and may be eligible for financial support from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).
Unfortunately, the discussions are not going in the right direction. A lot of support is to be again given to fossil fuel projects (mostly to gas infrastructure). More than a hundred NGOs have written to the European Commission and the permanent representations of Member States to remind them of the need to take the implications of the ongoing climate change crisis seriously and to respect the agreement made at the international climate negotiations by the EU in Paris in 2015 (the Paris Agreement). They have also urged them to end the support given to fossil fuel projects and to boost real green sustainable solutions.
The Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees but at the moment the different nations’ pledges are likely to ensure warming of 3 degrees, if not more. We know now that the majority of greenhouse gases come from the burning of fossil fuels - coal, oil but also gas. While too often presented (particularly by the European Commission and some other EU actors) as the perfect ‘bridge fuel’ that will enable Europe to make the transition from coal and oil to renewable energy sources in a comfortable way, the history of gas production and consumption has shown it is anything but a clean source of energy. Massive emissions of methane (86 times more potent than CO2), controversial fracking and major and repeated earthquakes in the Netherlands all show why it’s not a viable solution. Why then would we invest in all these heavy long-term fossil fuel infrastructure, locking ourselves for decades with this type of energy when we already have the solutions to stop our addiction to dirty fuels and when we could move to renewable energy sources directly? Would the EU citizens’ money not be of better use if we were already boosting the greener solutions? Who exactly is really benefiting from this? How can this initiative be considered of real “common interest” when it so weakly addresses the climate change crisis that it should primarily fight? Avoiding these questions puts Europe’s long-term security and sustainability in great danger.
Europe must think twice before supporting projects that we know go in the wrong direction and that are not economically sound! It must phase out all investments in fossil fuels and stop encouraging investment in the oil, coal and gas sectors as quickly as possible.
The new projects of common interest should be the symbol of the EU long term vision for the energy field. There is no logic in making incredibly good speeches about the importance of protecting our planet, of helping our economy and of creating new jobs if Europe continues promoting and supporting the exact same sectors that are responsible for the warming of our climate!
(*)The compilation of projects will be done before the end of the year and will then go to the EU Parliament and Council for scrutiny. The final list is to be published in February 2018
Letter sent by the NGOs to the EU Commission on 17th October