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Open letter to members of the European Parliament REGI committee

Thursday, 02 July 2020

Brussels, Belgium - 2 July 2020

What’s happening?
The European Parliament’s Committee on Regional Development (REGI) is voting on the EU Just Transition Fund - which aims to support EU regions in their transition to climate neutrality - on 6 July. They have the chance to follow the EU Council, which last week agreed to fully exclude fossil fuels from funding. The Parliament voted to exclude fossil fuels from EU regional funds in March 2019. Yet despite this, there is a potential unholy alliance between the ECR, EPP and Renew to push for a big loophole which would allow some gas power and infrastructure to get funding.

62 NGOs including WWF and Climate Action Network Europe have today sent an open letter to all MEPs in the committee, urging them to vote against including gas in the Fund.

Why does it matter?
The gas industry is pushing hard for Just Transition Fund money. This would directly contradict the concept of a just transition to a zero carbon economy. Fossil gas has no role as a transitional fuel: it accelerates climate change and leaked methane emissions can make it worse for the climate than coal. There is also zero evidence that it would create many or decent jobs, while every million (USD) invested in renewables creates three times more jobs than in fossil fuels.
Last but not least, giving priority and money to gas projects would cement Europe's future in a gas lock-in over the next 40-50 years and waste up to €29 billion of EU taxpayers’ money in stranded assets.

What do WWF and CAN Europe want?
To truly deliver, the EU Just Transition Mechanism should do three key things:
Exclude gas and other fossil fuels - only projects consistent with a sustainable and climate neutral Europe by 2040 should be financed
Require plans to be aligned with EU climate targets to access funds, reward climate ambition and include coal phase-out dates of 2030 latest, and gas phase-out dates of 2035 latest
Encourage and enable effective partnerships by supporting transparency and meaningful engagement, including with civil society, local governments and trade unions

Katie Treadwell, Energy Policy Officer at WWF European Policy Office said:
“The gas industry has been fighting tooth and nail to claw off money that’s meant for Europe’s vulnerable communities. Despite this, the EU Council agreed last week to exclude all fossil fuels from the Just Transition Fund. The European Parliament must close its ears to the gas lobbies and do the same, or they will be nobbling the EU just transition from the get-go.”

Markus Trilling, finance and subsidies policy coordinator at Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe said:
“The just transition fund must serve communities impacted by the much needed transition to climate neutrality, not provide a lifeline to climate-harmful fossil gas. Switching from fossils to renewables and energy savings is the only way forward to limit temperature increase to 1.5°c, as  the Paris Agreement requires.”

Despite the Council’s final position against fossil fuels, such is the contention surrounding this issue that it abandoned its first attempts to agree, when the file was reopened by some of the CEE and Baltic countries who wanted it to finance fossil gas.

Following the REGI Committee vote, a plenary vote is expected in September.

OPEN LETTER TO MEMBERS OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT REGI COMMITTEE