Countries ‘misspent’ EU billions on fossil fuels — report
26 January 2016, Politico
Central and Eastern European countries “misspent” billions worth of EU public funds on fossil fuels instead of on renewables and energy efficiency, NGOs CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth Europe said in a report released Tuesday.
Examining the spending plans for current 2014-2020 EU budget cycle for Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, the two NGOs found that of the €178 billion in regional development and cohesion funds aimed at CEE countries, only 7 percent will be spent on greener forms of energy.
Instead money is going on coal, gas, and “dated” transport systems across the region, the report found.
The countries “don’t seem to be committed to energy system transformation,” Markus Trilling, one of the authors, told POLITICO, instead they lock in outdated infrastructure and fossil fuels.
According to the report’s findings, Poland and the Czech Republic plan to use funds to replace old coal boilers with more modern variants, while Estonia will retain carbon-intensive oil shale as its major energy source.
The Commission said that social considerations, such as high levels of energy poverty, affect investment patterns. However, coal investments must follow a number of strict requirements, said Jakub Adamowicz, a Commission spokesman.
“Such investments should only be supported when the extension of district heating is economically not feasible and they should clearly address energy poverty,” Adamowicz said. “Limited investments in fossil-based individual heating” are planned under “a number of limitations” in the Czech Republic and in Poland.
Meanwhile, the NGOs’ concern is that the countries lock in outdated infrastructure for decades and undermine their ability to adjust their energy systems, which they say is a must after a global climate deal was struck in Paris in December.
“They completely ignore a post-Paris world,” Trilling said.
The countries in Central and Eastern Europe only superficially integrate climate considerations into their spending plans and investment projects, the NGOs found in the report, even though the Commission called on EU countries to focus Union funding on climate action in the years up to 2020.
The Commission said cohesion funds, which are one of the main investment tools for Central and Eastern Europe, have been reformed for the period 2014-2020. They now include conditions, including environmental considerations, before the funds can be allocated.