Environmental groups challenge EU support for gas projects

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BRUSSELS (AP) — Campaign groups have launched a lawsuit challenging the European Union executive’s decision to include 30 gas projects in a list of deals considered beneficial to the energy market of the 27-nation bloc.

Activists said on Tuesday that the European Commission had granted “these climate-destroying projects VIP status, in contradiction to its legal obligations”.

They said the projects were worth 13 billion euros and would lock the region into a fossil fuel addiction that European institutions say 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 of 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 period 2021-2027 allocates an envelope of 5.8 billion euros to the energy sector.

“Billions of euros will inevitably be wasted on 30 major gas infrastructures,” the campaigners said, pointing to the EastMed pipeline – a plan to create a 1,900-kilometre (1,180-mile) gas pipeline to link the offshore gas fields of the eastern Mediterranean to Greece and Italy.

Proponents of the gas projects say they would improve Europe’s energy security, especially in the context of energy sanctions imposed on Russia for its war in Ukraine. The bloc is looking for alternatives to reduce its reliance on Russian gas, which accounts for around 40% of EU gas consumption.

The environmental groups said they 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 asked the European Commission to review the decision that justified the inclusion of the gas projects and threatened to ask the EU Court of Justice to rule on the matter if it did not change its decision.

“This list is equivalent to a VIP pass for fossil gas in Europe, when we should be talking about its gradual exit,” said Guillermo Ramo, lawyer for the ClientEarth group. “The Commission has not taken into account the impact of methane emissions from gas infrastructure projects, despite evidence that they are substantial. This is illegal because it directly conflicts 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 prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and ideally no more than 1.5 degrees C (2.7 F) d end of the century. Scientists say both targets will be largely missed unless drastic measures are taken to reduce emissions.

The groups’ legal action came as European lawmakers debated on Tuesday proposals for the Commission’s ‘Fit for 55’ package to meet EU climate targets of cutting emissions of gases that cause global warming by 55% during this decade.

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