Ireland set to receive EU climate funds despite planned coal-to-gas transition

9 September 2020 

Ireland is among four countries set to receive more than 10 per cent of the EU’s Just Transition Fund despite its planned coal-to-gas energy transition, new analysis reveals. 

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe and Ember published the figure in its “Just Transition or Just Talk” report, a document that examined the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) of 18 Member States and if they are in line with EU climate commitments. 

The document also looked at whether or not the €40 billion Just Transition Fund would therefore “be used to support a real transition in these EU coal-countries”. 

The Fund will be used to support EU regions most impacted by the transition to a low carbon economy. 

The bloc-wide picture 

Alongside Greece, Hungary and Italy, Ireland plans to phase out coal by 2030, but intends on overseeing an increased use in fossil gas, according to the analysis.

In order to meet bloc-wide commitments under the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 C, all EU countries need to phase out coal by the end of the decade. 

Economies must also transition directly to clean energy without upping the use of other fossil fuels, the report goes on to say. 

Seven Member States will not phase out coal in the allotted time frame, including Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Germany, Poland, Romania and Slovenia. 

Nearly two-thirds of the Just Transition Fund will go to these countries, two of which (Bulgaria and Poland) are planning to significantly expand the use of fossil gas. 

A further seven countries are on course to meet the phase-out target by 2030 without a significant increase in fossil gas, namely Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain. 

In order to adhere to climate commitments, the report authors urged the European Parliament, Council and Commission to ensure that support from the Just Transition Fund is conditional on a 2030 coal phase-out and that all forms of fossil fuels are fully excluded from the scope of the Fund. 

The problem with fossil gas 

Fossil gas is often referred to by policymakers as a “bridge fuel” to renewable energy sources.

However, its production leads to methane leakage, a highly potent gas that has a warming effect 84 to 87 times greater than that of carbon dioxide over a 20 year period. 

According to business-as-usual projections, fossil gas could grow a further 20 to 40 per cent by the 2040s. 

The use of gas has been a longstanding issue amongst climate activists in Ireland, as the controversial Shannon Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal has faced legal challenges following the renewal of its planning permission in 2018. 

The Government has pledged to withdraw the terminal from the EU’s Projects of Common Interest list in 2021 and has said that the development of such terminals does not “make sense” as the country “moves toward carbon neutrality”. 

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