“The Commission takes away with one hand, gives back to industry with the other”

14th July 2021, Brussels - Global Witness has welcomed the European Commission’s proposal to keep hydrogen produced from fossil gas out of its revision of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). 

Less encouragingly the Commission has included fossil-based hydrogen, mis-labeled as ‘low carbon hydrogen’, in other proposed laws, resulting in an inconsistent and incoherent hydrogen policy across its ‘Fit for 55’ package, 

This includes proposals to offer free Emissions Trading System (ETS) allowances to producers of fossil-based hydrogen, give tax breaks to consumers of fossil hydrogen, and allow shipping companies to use fossil hydrogen-based fuels to meet emission targets.

Tara Connolly, Senior Gas Campaigner at Global Witness, said:

“It would have been absurd to allow fossil fuels to be labelled as ‘renewable energy’ and so we are encouraged that the European Commission resisted the heavy lobbying from gas industry lobbyists to include fossil hydrogen in the Renewables Directive.”

“But what the Commission took away from industry with one hand it gave back with the other. This has resulted in a contradictory hydrogen policy that will only be further exploited by fierce lobbying from the gas industry.”

“The spirit of the ‘Fit for 55’ package is aimed at real climate action needed to ensure the planet is protected both now and for future generations. Fossil fuels cannot be a part of these plans, despite the desperate attempts by the industry to use hydrogen as a cover for their climate-wrecking fossil gas."

Even within the more encouraging elements of the Renewable Energy Directive, important questions remain unanswered. Global Witness notes that the Commission still needs to clarify rules around hydrogen produced from electricity to ensure it results in lower carbon emissions. These rules are currently being developed by the Commission in parallel with the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive and have themselves been the subject of intense industry lobbying.

Beyond concerns around the inclusion of fossil fuels, NGOs are disappointed that the Commission has only proposed to increase the EU’s 2030 renewable energy target to at least 40%, instead of the 50% required by science, and failed to reinstate binding national targets. The Commission has also failed to sufficiently strengthen rules on the use of bioenergy.

Global Witness is now calling on EU governments and MEPs to confirm the exclusion of fossil hydrogen from the Renewable Energy Directive and work to ensure fossil-based hydrogen does not receive public support under any element of the ‘Fit for 55’ package.