MEPs have a chance to prevent the future EU budget from bolstering global warming
Italy forest fire in the summer of 2017 | Photo credit: Press Association
Parliament can and should insist, without caveats or loopholes, that all fossil fuels are excluded from all the proposed budget legislation, writes Colin Roche.
After a long and exceptionally hot summer, MEPs have returned to their desks. Will the realisation that Europeans are once again being hit by the impacts of climate change prompt greater action to curb greenhouse gas emissions?
One last issue on deputies’ to-do list in the months before the European elections is whether to sign off on the EU’s future budget - which currently includes plans to spend billions more on fossil fuels.
After the record-breaking temperatures, fires, and droughts spanning the continent, Parliament now has the opportunity to protect communities and the world from the increasing heat - by putting an end to EU funding for fossil fuels. To have a chance of keeping the global temperature increase below 1.5C, Europe must fast wean itself from all fossil fuels, the primary cause of global warming.
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It is scandalous that the current budget has already spent billions subsidising climate changing fossil fuels - €2bn for the period 2014-2016 alone.
Unfortunately, the Commission’s latest budget proposals contain ample scope to continue to fund fossil fuel projects well into the future. It appears that the Paris agreement has had little effect on how the EU plans to spend its money.
The proposals ignore both existing EU commitments and Parliament’s call this year to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. While there is a welcome proposal to increase expenditure on climate action, the ambition doesn’t match the requirements of the climate emergency, nor of Paris, and will be undercut by more money for fossil fuel infrastructure.
Several elements of the proposed budget = which will shape our energy system in the crucial decades to 2050 = leave open the door to yet more squandered euros on fossil fuels.
The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) is proposed to continue funding so-called ‘projects of common interest’ (PCIs), which includes gas projects. The current list of PCIs includes over 100 gas infrastructure projects. The proposed CEF budget for energy projects is €8.7bn.
InvestEU proposes a “sustainable infrastructure policy window” which includes support for energy projects, with no current exclusion for fossil fuel projects. The current proposals contain €15.2bn earmarked for the InvestEU Fund to provide a €38bn guarantee. The current European Fund for Strategic Investments has a track record of supporting fossil fuels, spending €1.2bn on eight gas distribution projects in its first two years.
The new proposed research fund, Horizon Europe, is also a potential source of fossil fuel financing. It is allotted €97.6bn, including €15bn for a ‘climate, energy and mobility’ cluster, but there is no prohibition on support to fossil fuel projects.
The proposals for the EU cohesion fund and European regional development fund allows for the support of “clean vehicles”, however, the definition includes vehicles powered by liquefied natural gas - a fossil fuel - and it risks being used partly to support fossil gas projects.
Parliament now has the chance to reshape the budget to ensure that taxpayers’ money truly supports action to stop climate change, instead of accelerating it.
Because if not now, when? Now is when the earth has already warmed by one degree. Now is already more than 25 years since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Now is when millions are already feeling the effects of droughts, floods and other extreme weather events made more likely by climate change. Seventeen of the 18 warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st century. We do not need any more warning signals.
A flagship Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report this October on limiting global warming to 1.5C is expected to show that the world is now in the last chance saloon. The longer we wait, the higher the chances of melting through the Paris agreement targets.
Parliament can and should insist, without caveats or loopholes, that all fossil fuels are excluded from all the proposed budget legislation. No more reckless expenditure of taxpayers’ money on bolstering global warming. A fossil-free Europe is in MEPs’ hands.