While MEPs traditionally advocate more ambitious climate policies than the usually more thrifty EU member states, this time, precisely the opposite is happening.
The European Parliament’s Regional Affairs Committee will vote Monday (6 July) on the EU’s proposed €40 billion Just Transition Fund, which aims to support the bloc’s 108 coal-producing regions in their transition to a low-carbon economy.
The proposed fund aims to support regions with polluting industries to retrain workers and help them find new low-carbon jobs.
However, EU member states have long disagreed on whether to link the fund to investments into new low-carbon infrastructure.
Last Wednesday (1 July), EU countries finally decided to exclude fossil fuels from any kind of support under the new just transition fund.
The move came as a surprise given that some Eastern member states, such as Poland and Hungary, insist that natural gas is essential for the transition to a low-carbon economy.
European Union countries agreed on Wednesday (24 June) that the bloc’s flagship fund to wean regions off fossil fuels should not finance nuclear or natural gas projects, despite calls from some Eastern countries for gas to be eligible for EU funding.
European Parliament undecided
The proposed €40 billion fund is now being examined by the European Parliament, where the regional committee is in charge, and other committees provide opinions.
But while MEPs traditionally advocate more ambitious climate policies than the usually more thrifty EU member states, this time, precisely the opposite is happening.
Last Monday, a clear majority in the Parliament’s industry committee voted in favour of an amendment by Polish rapporteur Jerzy Buzek (EPP), which explicitly declares gas projects to be eligible.
Even in the more ecologically-minded environment committee, an amendment by Czech rapporteur Alexandr Vondra (ECR) was adopted backing investments in natural gas infrastructure in cases where it displaces coal, the most polluting fossil fuel.
The amendment was passed with 36 votes in favour and 19 against and was supported in particular by lawmakers from the centre-right EPP, the conservative ECR and the far-right ID groups. But a majority of Eastern European MEPs from the centrist Renew Europe and the socialists and democrats (S&D) group also supported it.
The socialists and centrists “are buckling down in front of the gas lobby and digging the billion-euro grave with it,” Green MEP Michael Bloss told EURACTIV.de, saying he considers this decision “grotesque”.