Clean transport, energy networks to get funding boost

Infrastructure to support cleaner transport and renewable energy integration is set to receive a funding boost after 2020, but campaigners warn of support for fossil fuels

Infrastructure to support cleaner transport and renewable energy integration is set to receive a funding boost after 2020 following a political agreement between EU lawmakers, but environmentalists have warned that budget sources will also support gas projects.

Government delegates and MEPs reached on Thursday night a provisional agreement on the proposed Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) for the 2021 to 2027 period, which would grant supplementary support to infrastructure projects from the still-to-be-finalised trillion-euro post-2020 EU budget.

Climate action and energy commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said that the enhanced CEF “will be crucial to further integrate the energy market, help the penetration of renewable energy sources and increase security of supply”.

Similarly, Violeta Bulc, commissioner for transport, said that the programme would “deliver on connectivity, accelerate the decarbonisation and digitalisation of the EU's economy and create synergies between the transport, energy and digital infrastructure”.

Environmental group Transport & Environment (T&E) found the agreement - subject to formal adoption by the EU Council and Parliament - to be in line with the EU's 2050 decarbonisation strategy, with €7 billion of the bloc’s transport infrastructure budget envisaged for more sustainable projects like electric vehicle re-charging points and upgrades to rail signalling.

“This agreement helps ensure that the EU budget will aid the decarbonisation of transport and helps member states to meet their climate targets”, said Sam Kenny, freight policy officer at T&E. “It should inspire governments to follow suit and ramp up investment in electro-mobility.”

One of the parliament’s lead negotiators on the file, centre-right lawmaker Marian-Jean Marinescu, pointed out that 60% of the programme’s resources are aimed at completing the EU's Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), especially a corridor for “better connectivity and accessibility”.

Another EPP group lawmaker, Henna Virkkunen, noted that “the focus of trans-European energy infrastructure is increasingly on electrical interconnections, energy storages and smart grids.”

But environmentalists once again slammed the fund for the continued subsidising of fossil fuel infrastructure, despite funds being earmarked for climate projects in all three sectors – digital, energy and transport.

“The spending on gas in transport is a mistake”, Kenny said. “That investment needs to go into technologies that will actually get us to zero emissions and energy independence."

The agreement also foresees support for transport connections to airports, but not for the construction or expansion of airports. “Flying is responsible for an estimated 4.9% of man-made global warming”, T&E remarked.

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