Read on
The fingerprints of industry, and in particular the fossil fuel industry, can be seen all over the European Green Deal, the lobby watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) states. As a result, gas is at the heart of the EU’s 2050 climate long-term strategy.
Editorial office / Brussels

The European Green Deal (EGD) aims to make the EU economy ‘climate-neutral’. It is seen as the jewel in the crown of the new European Commission, and in particular of President Ursula von der Leyen and Frans Timmermans, Vice President in charge of the EGD, who presented his Green Hydrogen Strategy this week.

According to CEO, the fossil industry lobby has had a major say in the EGD. After the EGD’s launch on 11 December 2019, key members of the Commission met a disproportionate 151 times with fossil industry representatives, and most of these meetings lack transparency. Commissioner Timmermans and his Cabinet alone held 56 meetings with lobbyists from Shell, Eurogas, Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE), the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), Eni, and Gas Infrastructure Europe, all with big stakes in shaping the deal. Only 3 of these 56 meetings have minutes.

Carbon trading

CEO warns that all big oil and gas companies have embraced the ‘net-zero emissions’ mentioned in the EGD, because it will continue to allow big polluters to slow the transition, by carbon trading. The emissions reductions targets are modest, fossil gas is kept as a transitional fuel, and public money will finance industry ‘false solutions’, including ‘carbon removal’, for example by storing the carbon produced underground with unproven technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Setting the goals for a transition to green hydrogen as Commissioner Timmermans promotes, is also not very realistic according to CEO, since there simply is not enough excess renewable energy in the EU to power all the electrolysers needed for this. A staggering 96% of current hydrogen is still based on fossil fuels. Therefore, fully carbonised fossil gas will continue to be used (for heat, in gas-fired power plants, and in creating hydrogen).

Risky technologies

Industry has been relentlessly lobbying for many years to give gas a star place in the European energy policy. The campaign has paid off, and while the EGD calls for the phase out of coal, it supports ‘decarbonised’ gas. Industry has been successfully asking for public funding for the risky technologies needed for ‘decarbonised’ gas. The European Green Deal says that at least 35 per cent of the budget of Horizon Europe will fund new solutions for climate, mentioning specifically “clean hydrogen”. Invest EU, another fund featured in the EGD, will allocate 30 per cent of funding to fight climate change, but this can include gas and CCS. And the Commission’s Hydrogen strategy published on 8 July see cumulative investments of €3 billion to €18 billion by 2050 for “low-carbon fossil-based hydrogen” with carbon capture technology. The strategy prioritises green hydrogen, but keeps the door open to fossil gas.

“The gas lobby has massive influence on the EU hydrogen strategy,” according to Green MEP Michael Bloss: “This means that money is being sunk into a fossil billion-euro grave.”

Read the full article on the website of CEO.

Image: Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock