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Local environmentalists add voice to European campaign to stop gas projects

Friends of the Earth Cyprus (FoECY) is taking part in an international effort to stop 30 EU-backed gas projects from moving forward.

Protestors claim the EU Commission has given these climate-destructive projects VIP status, against its legal obligations and argue that the EU’s decision to support gas infrastructure puts its climate and energy goals under threat.

Every other year, the EU Commission draws up a list of priority energy infrastructure projects deemed beneficial to the whole bloc. Infrastructure development for what are deemed Projects of Common Interest, is promoted through fast-tracked permits and eligibility for EU funds.

“Billions of euros are bound to be wasted on 30 major pieces of gas infrastructure such as the EastMed pipeline,” FoECY said referring to the €7 billion, 1,900km gas pipeline that will connect offshore gas fields in Israel and Cyprus to Italy via Greece.

“The EastMed pipeline is a disaster for communities and the climate,” FoECY’s Natasa Ioannou said. “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.”

The environmental groups have started legal action with a request for internal review – a mechanism now open for use by NGOs and the public after a major reform of EU access to justice laws last year.

Four organisations are requesting that the EU Commission review the decision to approve the decision to give the 30 proposed projects priority status. If the Commission refuses to amend its decision, the organisations will be able to ask the Court of Justice of the EU to rule.

“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,” ClientEarth lawyer Guillermo Ramo said.

The groups say methane is the main component of fossil gas, with a global warming potential over 85 times higher than that of CO2 over 20 years. Yet, its impact when planning gas infrastructure is not taken into account.

“Experts have clearly said no new gas or other fossil fuel developments should be built if we are to limit warming within 1.5C. The list also comes as Europe faces a gas price crisis, caused in part by over-reliance on price-volatile gas,” FoECY said.

Despite this, the EU Commission’s REPowerEU strategy plans to unleash another €10 billion in new fossil gas infrastructure. Some studies point out that the EU can end imports of all Russian fossil gas by 2025 – two years earlier than the European Commission’s current target of 2027 – without building new gas infrastructure or delaying the phase-out of coal.

The European Commission has 22 weeks to reply. The end result could be a judgement clarifying how the EU should take the climate impacts of gas infrastructure development into account.

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