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Fossil gas included in guidelines for EU recovery plans

The European Commission has adopted a technical guidance document for upcoming spending under the newly agreed  Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), which will channel funds to member states for their post Covid-19 recovery. The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is concerned about the flexibility given to member states when requesting money for gas projects.

This technical document will provide guidelines in line with the Do No Significant Harm (DNSH) principle and, together with the climate tracking methodology, will be essential to assess whether the measures and investments that the Member States are including in their national Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRRPs) should be granted support by the EU.

The document should provide more clarity on how the EU recovery fund will be spent, as NGOs and the European Parliament requested last December following the agreement on the RFF. The EEB regrets that fossil gas is labelled as a “bridge” technology in the energy transition.

Barbara Mariani, senior policy officer for climate and energy at the European Environmental Bureau, said:

We called for guidelines that would prevent EU money from funding climate wrecking and polluting activities, instead the way they look now they just risk opening the floodgates for yet more funding to gas-related projects.

There’s no such a thing as a ‘bridge’ fuel when millions of euros are invested in long-lasting and expensive technology needed to produce, transport and deploy fossil fuels. Gas is not a ‘bridge fuel’, it’s a stranded asset and a climate disaster for people and the planet.

We also fear that the Commission is by-passing the tough controversy over gas as a transition fuel, which is delaying the adoption of the delegated acts for the Taxonomy regulation.

Future generations are being asked to pay twice: once for the impact of climate change and  then through their own pockets to repay the public debt of the recovery plan.

Davide Sabbadin, policy officer for climate and circular economy at the European Environmental Bureau, added:

Fossil gas has no role to play in the decarbonisation of our economy. With the right policies in place, we already know that renewables could do the job by 2040. Switching from coal to gas will not only undermine once again Europe’s climate neutrality goals, it will also prolong Europe’s addiction to a fossil fuel which we currently import from foreign countries.”

Labelling gas as a ‘bridge’ fuel also means that it will continue to benefit from a preferential tax regime at the expense of renewables, while failing to internalise its economic and environmental cost already paid by Europeans.

The Commission said concessions will be made under the condition that gas infrastructure will be compatible with the use of biomethane or hydrogen, assuming that these fuels will be largely available for future energy use. This is highly questionable, as many studies have shown that both biomethane and hydrogen will deliver a very limited contribution to EU’s decarbonation plans [1; 2]