Brussels – The European Parliament will decide whether it would allow fossil fuel companies to hijack the EU’s iconic Just Transition Fund when parliamentarians vote on the final details of the fund this week. The vote amounts to a test of the parliament’s commitment to addressing the climate emergency, which it supported last year.
The 17.5 billion euro fund  is intended to help fossil fuel dependent regions transition to a zero-carbon economy. But it’s at risk of being turned on its head after a European Parliament committee voted to allow a loophole for investments in fossil gas , making the parliament the only EU institution that can potentially undermine the fund’s climate ambition by allowing it to support fossil fuels. MEPs now have the opportunity to close the loophole, and tweak the fund to favour countries that are committed to a UN Paris climate agreement compatible pre-2030 coal phase-out , as well as to the EU’s climate neutrality target, when they vote next week.
“We’ve heard a lot about the European Parliament’s determination to tackle the climate crisis, but this is where the rubber really hits the road,” said Mahi Sideridou, Managing Director at Europe Beyond Coal. “If the parliament allows the Just Transition Fund to be captured by fossil fuel interests, how can it deliver on the Green Deal? MEPs need to exclude all fossil fuels from the fund, and mandate that only countries that commit to a pre-2030 coal phase-out can access it.”
Failure to safeguard the fund from fossil gas would come at the detriment of the climate . Renewable energy investments, on the other hand, offer a zero-carbon solution, delivering three times as many jobs per euro invested as fossil fuels , and posing no risk of stranded assets.
“Every bit of fossil gas infrastructure built today creates a high-carbon lock-in, and will inevitably have to be abandoned to meet carbon budgets,” said Alexandru Mustață, National Campaigner at Bankwatch Romania. “It’s a fool’s errand that would deny vulnerable communities the chance to leap forward, and cause the Just Transition Fund to deepen the very structural challenges it was intended to ease. The EU parliament has a choice: back up last year’s climate emergency declaration with a statement of intent, or sell-out vulnerable communities to the fossil gas lobby.”
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Europe Beyond Coal is an alliance of civil society groups working to catalyse the closures of coal mines and power plants, prevent the building of any new coal projects and hasten the just transition to clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Our groups are devoting their time, energy and resources to this independent campaign to make Europe coal free by 2030 or sooner. www.beyond-coal.eu
This text is based largely on a press release sent last week in anticipation of the vote by the Europe Beyond Coal coalition, including CEE Bankwatch Network.