“To make decarbonisation a reality, voting down the eligibility of fossil fuels, including gas, is key.” This is the message sent today by businesses, local authorities and NGOs to the members of the European Parliament as they will decide this week if they will turn back the clock by allowing funding for fossil fuels in Europe’s regions from 2021 to 2027, or if they will choose a path of sustainable development for Europe’s regions, bringing them new jobs, competitiveness and modernisation.
The open letter, signed by 44 organisations and sent today to EU Parliamentarians urges them to rule out fossil fuel investments as they will decide on the spending priorities of post-2020 Cohesion Policy on 27 March. Cohesion Policy funding aims to reduce territorial disparities across EU’s regions, particularly in central and eastern Europe.
Currently for the period 2014-2020, the funding provides for 930 million euros of EU citizens’ taxmoney for natural-gas infrastructure, in particular gas pipelines and storage, hindering the transition to zero-emission economies, and locking regions into fossil fuel dependency.
The European Commission had proposed in May last year to exclude fossil fuel support from EU’s Cohesion Policy funding. However, this exclusion has been watered down by MEPs of the regional development committee who revived funding possibilities for fossil fuels, in particular gas for the transport and heating sector, and for coal in district heating.
The signatories of the letter are concerned that allowing gas and other fossil fuel investments would lock-in climate-harmful infrastructure in European regions despite the urgency to act on climate change, and would cut European economies out of the new jobs, enhanced competitiveness and modernisation arising from the clean energy transition. Further investments into fossil fuel infrastructure will undermine the EU’s ambition to become carbon neutral by mid-century.
Markus Trilling, Finance and Subsidies Policy Coordinator at Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe said:
“For many MEPs it’s the last vote of their political career. They must not leave a fossil fuel legacy. The choice is clear: Ignoring the climate crisis by allowing spending on fossil fuels for the next decade to come, or acknowledging climate science by boosting support for the just and clean energy transition in European regions. Fossil fuel subsidies have no place in an EU budget fit for the needs of future generations.”
Irene di Padua, Policy Officer at Solar Heat Europe said:
“The European local dimension is key for a further deployment of renewable energy solutions. The ERDF and Cohesion fund can be the engine to promote local investment and achieve a just energy transition for all. Europe has a moral obligation to ensure tax payers’ money is not wasted in possible stranded assets and must stop subsidising fossil fuels lock-in.”
Eliot Whittington, Director of the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group said:
“Ending the eligibility of fossil fuels to receive EU Cohesion funds is a necessary step in bringing the EU in alignment with the goals and ambition of the Paris Agreement. As the energy transition, which includes dramatic innovations and advances in renewable energy and energy efficiency, takes off, EU funds should support the development of the industries that will be competitive and sustainable in the future and enable a fair transition for European citizens.”
“The Corporate Leaders Group, as a leading business voice, urges MEPs to ensure regional support is consistent with achieving climate neutrality in the EU by 2050.”
Claire Roumet, Executive Director at Energy Cities said:
“The EU Cohesion funds are a critical instrument to accelerate a shared energy transition at local level that will engage and benefit all citizens. Cohesion funding must be channeled into projects that enable a radical change in energy generation and environmental responsibility across all EU territories. MEPs need to show a bold response to the climate challenge by ensuring a fossil-free EU budget.”
Raphael Hanoteaux, EU policy officer at CEE Bankwatch Network said:
“Cohesion Policy is the perfect tool to support local solutions that can drive Europe’s energy transformation, but only if fossil fuels are left out of the picture. Parliamentarians can leave a lasting impression on the future climate footprint of the EU by reversing course with this week’s plenary vote and scrapping fossil fuels.”