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27/09/2016

EU funds still used to subsidise fossil fuels in Eastern member states

Climate & Environment

EU funds still used to subsidise fossil fuels in Eastern member states

Coal pollution from Polish chimneys.

[Doin Oakenhelm/Shutterstock]

The countries of Eastern and Central Europe rarely use their EU funding for energy transition projects, instead using the money to entrench their dependence on fossil fuels. Our partner Journal de l’Environnement reports.

According to a report published by Friends of the Earth Europe on Tuesday (26 January), only 7% of the €178 billion allocated to nine countries in Eastern and Central Europe is spent on renewable energy, energy efficiency improvements or “smart grids”.

The report covers allocations from both the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund for the period 2014-2020, in Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Croatia and the Czech Republic.

Climate considerations

Though a requirement of the EU, “the integration of climate change considerations into all investment areas” is carried out “at a mainly rhetorical level”, according to Friends of the Earth Europe.

The Cohesion Fund, the European Social Fund and the ERDF are the main tools supporting infrastructure investments in Europe. Over the period 2014-20 these funds will distribute €351 billion among the 28 EU member states.

>>Read: Smart grids could be Europe’s shale gas, Commission says

In practice, the majority of these funds are spent on coal, gas, and polluting transport, “which locks these countries into dependency on fossil fuels, to the detriment of renewable energies and energy efficiency,” said Markus Trilling, a specialist in European financing at Bankwatch.

New coal-fired boilers

Among the many examples cited are those of Poland and the Czech Republic, which finance the replacement of old coal-fired boilers with newer models, under the pretext of better protecting the environment.

Croatia and Estonia were also criticised for using European funds to extend airports, despite these projects not being eligible for EU funding.

>>Read: Smart grids: Making connections

Friends of the Earth Europe stated in its report that, “energy or transport infrastructure built today will determine production and consumption patterns, including GHG emissions, for decades to come.  [These] countries are denying investors the certainty they need in order to commit to renewable energy and other low-carbon technologies.”

The NGO advised the EU to pay closer attention to how its funds are spent, to ensure that the projects are consistent with its climate change mitigation objectives. This, Friends of the Earth said, should achieve this by cutting all EU funding, direct or otherwise, for fossil fuels.