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EU’s Plans for New Gas Infrastructure Breach Climate Rules, Lawyers Say

The European Union’s plan to build new natural gas infrastructure is illegal under its own climate laws and won’t solve the fossil energy crunch triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine, climate lawyers with London, UK-based Client Earth are arguing.

The attorneys contend that the European Commission’s decision to place US$14-billion worth of gas infrastructure projects on its “projects of common interest” (PCI) priority list breaches Article 6 of the EU’s climate law, which states that all such projects must be shown to be consistent with EU climate targets, reports Climate Home News.

Client Earth says the commission has also failed to address methane emissions from fossil gas infrastructure in its cost-benefit analysis of the priority projects.

The EU has unveiled plans “to stop burning methane gas for power by 2035 and to stop using gas completely by 2050,” writes Climate Home. But legislators are still pushing ahead to support almost a dozen gas projects, with the most significant being the 1,870-kilometre Eastern Mediterranean pipeline that would link Cyprus and Crete to the mainland Greek gas transmission system, and on into Europe.

Describing the pipeline as “a disaster for communities and the climate,” Natasa Ioannou of Friends of the Earth Cyprus told Climate Home that “it is not in the interests of local people in the region who will bear the costs of a fossil fuel lock-in, and the harm to the ecologically sensitive Mediterranean Sea.”

Client Earth lawyer Guillermo Ramo added that gas infrastructure is built for an extremely long shelf life. “We will be using it for decades,” he warned. “So anything we do needs to take into account our climate commitments.”

With Europe scrambling to replace gas supplies from Russia, Ramo said energy efficiency and renewable energy should be the continent’s first priority. Since it takes years to get a new pipeline up and running, “it’s too late for them to be useful in the context of diversifying away from Russia,” he said.