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EU recovery cash must not go to gas, coal leaders urged ahead of summit

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The Europe Beyond Coal coalition is urging coal region leaders to commit multibillion euro recovery sums to a clean energy transition – and to tell their governments that the EU should not divert the funds towards a fossil gas-led future.

The call comes as representatives from Europe’s coal regions prepare to meet on Monday 16 November to discuss how to spend their EU recovery funds amidst faltering European Parliament climate ambition after two committees failed to exclude fossil gas from the bloc’s EUR 672.5 billion Recovery and Resilience Facility [1] – despite pressure from environmental lawyers [2]. There was a similar case of backsliding in September, when the European Parliament voted to allow fossil gas to be funded under the bloc’s flagship Just Transition Fund [3].

“At a time when coal-dependent regions should be focusing on investing in renewable energy technologies that protect the climate and create long-lasting jobs, the inclusion of fossil gas within the scope of these funds threatens to encourage the notion that Europe can burn its way out of the climate crisis.” said Kathrin Gutmann, Europe Beyond Coal campaign director. “Renewables are future-proof investments, generating up to five times the number of jobs per euro invested than fossil gas. They also won’t need tearing down in a few years, unlike fossil gas. We need our leaders to commit to energy buildout that guarantees people in ex-coal regions stable employment on a healthy planet.”

Also on the agenda of the Just Transition Platform are its terms of reference. Currently it has no agreed definition of what Just Transition is, and is yet to officially recognise that for a Just Transition to take place, coal must be phased out by 2030 in line with climate science [4].

“As a starting point, we need agreement that you can’t have a just transition away from coal without having a plan to phase it out,” said Alexandru Mustață, Campaign Coordinator at Bankwatch Romania. “We also need to be clear that swapping one fossil fuel for another is not a just transition, it simply creates more stranded assets, more lost jobs and more climate damage. In order for the Just Transition Platform to become more than a talking shop, it needs to acknowledge a coal exit by 2030 and put local people in the driving seat of their own transition.”

Under the Just Transition Fund’s existing allocation methodology, roughly two-thirds of the pot will go to seven countries which do not currently have UN Paris Climate Agreement-compatible, pre-2030 coal phase-out plans [5]. This contradicts the Fund’s regulation, which stresses the importance of the EU’s commitment to the accord. Among them is the Czech Republic, where a leaked report shows that the government would consider using money from the Just Transition Fund to finance the conversion of coal units to fossil gas if this ends up being allowed by EU rules [6]. Poland, too, is eyeing up fossil gas for a key role in its energy future, which includes trying to drag out hard coal production until 2049 [7].

Notes:

  1. Analysis of Recovery and Resilience Facility committee votes
  2. https://www.clientearth.org/latest/documents/letter-to-budg-econ-joint-committee-recovery-and-resilience-facility-funding-for-gas-projects/
  3. https://bankwatch.org/press_release/meps-gas-a-green-eu-budget-by-voting-for-fossil-fuels-in-just-transition-fund
  4. https://climateanalytics.org/media/report_coal_phase_out_2019.pdf
  5. http://www.caneurope.org/docman/coal-phase-out/3639-2020-just-transition-or-just-talk/file
  6. https://bankwatch.org/press_release/leaked-document-czechia-plans-to-spend-eu-just-transition-money-on-gas-and-subsidising-corporations
  7. https://www.euractiv.com/section/electricity/news/poland-agrees-to-shut-coal-mines-by-2049/
  8. Why EU gas infrastructure does not need more subsidies: http://www.caneurope.org/docman/climate-energy-targets/3662-fossil-gas-should-not-receive-public-funds/file

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