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Press release: 22 October 2021
Environmental lawyers at ClientEarth say that the European Commission “should feel emboldened” to align its rules on how Member States can spend public funds with climate and nature targets after an important vote in the European Parliament on Thursday.
The European Parliament voted on a resolution for the State aid guidelines for climate, environmental protection and energy (CEEAG), demanding the Commission integrates environmental considerations and sustainable development across competition and State aid policies, in line with the EU’s Treaty principles.
It also calls on the Commission to make State aid procedures more transparent and grant access to justice to civil society in State aid matters, which is essential for proper governance.
The CEEAG is currently being revised – with the aim of subsidies only being allocated in line with the bloc’s climate and nature mandates under the European Green Deal.
However, in contradiction of this aim, the draft CEEAG currently leaves the door open for subsidies to gas – an intensely damaging fossil fuel, which is 80 times more harmful to the climate over a 20-year period than carbon dioxide.
ClientEarth State aid lawyer Stéphanie Nieuwbourg said: “In our fight against climate change, the way public money is allocated could be make or break. Getting the new State aid guidelines right is therefore paramount as it will dictate whether or not public funds are used to support projects that are compatible with and support the Green Deal.
“In yesterday’s vote, the European Parliament has made that point loud and clear. The European Commission should feel emboldened by this and revise the State aid guidelines accordingly.”
The European Parliament’s resolution also supports the ‘energy efficiency first’ principle and the concept of ‘energy hierarchy’, which currently do not feature in the CEEAG despite it being critical for a better integration of energy systems and for ensuring affordable energy in the EU.
Nieuwbourg added: “Energy efficiency first should be a cornerstone of all energy policy – the cheapest, cleanest energy is the one you don’t use. Right now, we need to be looking at the best ways to keep bills down to protect consumers, and the smartest ways to work with what we have. That means state subsidies definitely need to prioritise efficiency measures over gas and electricity levies exemptions for energy-intensive users.
“So the question with these new State aid guidelines is: as part of the urgent legislative project to tackle climate change, is the EU going to let its Member States use taxpayers’ money to freely finance climate-damaging fossil fuel projects?”
The European Commission will adopt the final guidelines by the end of the year and these will apply as of 1 January 2022.
Read the European Parliament’s resolution here.
ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.