Press release | April 10, 2020

EU response to Coronavirus must not lock countries into a fossil fuel economy

Global Witness warmly welcomes the public statement from Climate Ministers from 10 EU countries that we need to “withstand the temptations of short-term solutions in response to the present [Coronavirus] crisis that risk locking the EU in a fossil fuel economy for decades to come.”

It is now crucial that the EU act on this call. European leaders must use this year’s review of the Trans-European Networks-Energy (TEN-E) Regulation, which governs the EU’s support for new energy infrastructure project, to end its provision of public subsidies to all fossil fuel projects, notably gas.

So-called “Natural” gas or, more accurately, fossil gas, is the world’s fastest growing fossil fuel. Indeed, the growth in fossil gas is responsible for over 50% of the increase in global greenhouse gas emissions since 2016. In the EU, emissions from fossil gas are now higher than from coal, and are rising, while coal emissions are in decline.

In a bid for its long-term survival - knowing that coal and oil are now under intense scrutiny - the fossil fuel industry has been quick to promote gas as a ‘clean’ fuel that can play a crucial part in tackling climate change, pitching it as the ideal partner to wind and solar power. This has captured the agenda of leading policymakers in the EU, US and parts of Asia.

However, Global Witness’ recent report, Overexposed, showed that all production from new oil and gas fields – beyond those already in production or development – is incompatible with the Paris Agreement goal of keeping warming under 1.5°C. Achieving that target would require fossil gas production and consumption to drop by 40% in the next decade. Yet the oil and gas industry is set to spend $4.9 trillion over the next ten years on exploration and extraction in new fields; a trajectory to irreparable climate breakdown.

In addition to its carbon emissions, the gas industry leaks methane into the atmosphere at almost every step in the supply chain. Methane is a greenhouse gas 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide, which has driven more than a quarter of global warming to date. At least a third of human-caused methane emissions comes from the fossil fuel industry, with recent studies suggesting this figure could be far higher.

Despite the catastrophic effects of increasing our dependence on gas, the fossil gas industry receives significant public subsidies in producer countries like the US and consumer markets like the EU. In many cases these subsidies are essential to make projects economically viable. Often the gas industry itself has the power to shape decisions on how subsidies are allocated – a clear case of corporate capture.

/ ENDS

Covid-19 Crisis Gas