Dangerous pipedream: how funding fossil gas risks blowing apart the EU Green Deal

MEPs should uphold the Green Deal and vote against subsidising gas in their upcoming vote, write Jeremy Wates and Magda Stoczkiewicz.

Jeremy Wates is Secretary General at the European Environmental Bureau and Magda Stoczkiewicz is Programme Director at Greenpeace European Unit. This article was originally published on Euractiv.

Ignoring the commitments spelled out in the EU Green Deal, some MEPs are ready to use public money to back fossil gas in a 9 November vote, supporting a polluting industry which is already responsible for more emissions in Europe than coal, and which will undermine the EU’s climate neutrality and zero pollution ambitions.

During the October plenary of the European Parliament, we witnessed the clamorous debacle of the Common Agricultural Policy, as the opportunity to make the CAP a strong pillar of the European Green Deal was shamefully wasted.

To make matters worse, the attempts to undermine the Green Deal continue, with several members of the European Parliament supporting public subsidies to fossil gas ahead of a crucial vote on the recovery funds, in the middle of an environmental and climate crisis and directly against Europe’s efforts to tackle it.

We are witnessing a massive push by a large part of what is supposed to be the greenest European Parliament ever to include gas in the Just Transition Mechanism, the Recovery and Resilience Facility and even the Taxonomy, the tool that will guide green EU investments for the next decades.

The excuse is always the same: we need gas as a bridge to leave coal behind and lead the EU towards climate neutrality.

A fossil gas trap

We do not need gas to build the EU’s zero emissions future: on the contrary, investments in fossil gas risk locking the EU in another fossil trap, which will undermine its climate neutrality and zero pollution ambitions.

If we are serious about tackling the climate crisis, we simply cannot afford to invest more public funds in any fossil fuel, gas included.

Fossil gas is already responsible for more emissions in Europe than coal, emissions that must be cut if the EU is to meet its own climate objectives and the Paris Agreement’s targets.

Besides, the current gas supply infrastructure can already meet the EU demand under any scenario, including from a security of supply point of view, even taking into account a rapid coal phase out.

Figures indicate that the EU already imports more gas than it consumes, and that the current gas-fired power capacity is enough to respond to short-term increases in demand.

Not to mention that an expansion of an additional 22% of gas generating capacity is already under development.

Gas does not add anything to the employment equation either. Investing in fossil gas does not pay back in terms of job creation, while renewable energy projects generate ten times more direct and indirect jobs compared to gas.

Job multipliers (FTE per US $1m spending) of investments in energy projections

Renewable energy is also already cheaper than fossil gas and the competitive gap will increase in the next few years.

Even the hydrogen hype that, according to gas supporters, would justify investments in new pipelines, is largely overestimated. In a business model where gas pipelines transport a blend of 90% fossil gas and 10% hydrogen, profits clearly lie with fossil gas.

The use of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to produce the so-called blue hydrogen is also not sustainable, CCS being an end-of-the pipeline fix, far from capturing all the CO2 emissions.

Lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions as Kg CO2 equivalent / MWh

Time to leave fossil fuels behind

If EU institutions are serious about the EU Green Deal they must stand up to the gas lobby and explicitly exclude any support to fossil fuels from the recovery package they will endorse on 9 November.

Public money should be spent on the best available solutions to achieve climate neutrality and a transition towards a pollution-free future, including renewables and energy efficiency.

All in all, investing public money in fossil gas is total nonsense. It will not help the EU to pursue its climate neutrality ambition, nor to ensure a just transition for coal-reliant communities and regions.

But the younger generation that has been on the streets to demand climate action will foot the bill, in addition to paying for the consequences of a worsened climate crisis.

Whereas it is obvious that the gas lobby is pressuring EU institutions to keep the fossil gas industry alive, MEPs should listen to people and not polluters, and act according to what Europeans asked them to do, which is to lead the European Union towards a green and sustainable future.