FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 19, 2020. Picture taken February 19, 2020 REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo
(Reuters) – European Union countries agreed on Wednesday 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.
The fund aims to encourage a shift from high-carbon industries that would help coal miners to retrain and find new low-carbon jobs, and support regions whose economies depend on polluting sectors to build new industries.
Ambassadors from the EU’s 27 member states agreed on Wednesday that the Just Transition Fund should not support the decommissioning or construction of nuclear power plants, nor investments related to fossil fuels, according to a document published on Thursday.
The proposal will be finalised following negotiations between member states, the Commission and EU Parliament, with the latter typically favouring ambitious climate change policies.
With EU leaders still wrangling over the size and shape of the EU’s recovery fund and budget, member states held off agreeing a number for the size of the pot.
While transition money is off the table, fossil gas projects could still seek support from other parts of the EU budget and coronavirus recovery funds – so long as those projects “do no harm” to the bloc’s emissions-cutting goals.
Natural gas produces about half as much CO2 as coal when burned in power plants, but gas production is associated with leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Climate campaigners say new gas plants could stand for decades, threatening the EU’s aim to cut its net emissions to zero by 2050.
Reporting by Kate Abnett, editing by Marine Strauss and Angus MacSwan