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Environmental groups to challenge EU on fossil fuel projects in court

Four environmental organisations are set to take legal action against the EU on its support for 30 proposed gas projects.

ClientEarth, Friends of the Erath Europe, Food & Water Action Europe and CEE Bankwatch Network are among the groups who say the EU Commission is neglecting its legal obligations by supporting these fossil fuel developments.

The gas proposals, worth £13bn, are among the priority energy infrastructure projects on the ‘Projects of Common Interest’ (PCI) list, deemed beneficial to the whole bloc.

These are chosen by the EU Commission every other year and gain fast-tracked permits and eligibility for funding.

factories with smoke under cloudy sky

ClientEarth lawyer Guillermo Ramo said: ‘This list amounts to a VIP pass for fossil gas in Europe, when we should be talking about its phase-out. The Commission did not consider the impact of methane emissions derived from gas infrastructure projects – in spite of evidence that these are substantial. That’s unlawful as it directly clashes with the EU’s own climate laws and its legal obligations under the Paris Agreement.’

Campaigners have requested the EU Commission to conduct an internal review, as reforms to the EU justice system last year allow non-profits and the public to open environmental challenges more easily.

The four organisations are calling for the PCI list to be revised, so the 30 gas projects no longer have priority status, and will take the case to the Court of Justice if the Commission refuses.

They say that the EU’s support of gas infrastructure puts its climate and energy goals at risk, as experts have warned no new fossil fuel projects should be developed if warming is to be kept to 1.5°C.

The projects will gain major investment if they go ahead, with the proposed 1,900km EastMed pipeline connecting gas fields in Israel and Cyprus to Italy via Greece set to cost £7bn.

Natasa Ioannou, climate campaigner with Friends of the Earth Cyprus said: ‘The EastMed pipeline is a disaster for communities and the climate. It is not in the interests of local people in the region who will bear the costs of fossil fuel lock-in, and the harm to the ecologically-sensitive Mediterranean Sea. All along the route of the EastMed pipeline people are saying no to new fossil fuel infrastructure and yes to climate justice and to peace. EU funding must focus on supporting projects that implement just, fair, safe, and renewable energy solutions.’

Photo by Patrick Hendry

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