MEPs support sustainability and unsustainability at the same time

MEPs are voting for more sustainability with one hand and unsustainable projects with the other. That is the message from a group of NGOs after MEPs voted to strengthen sustainability safeguards for infrastructure projects that could receive EU funding, but at the same time voted to support certain transport projects that will take Europe further away from its sustainability goals.

As part of the EU’s budget for 2014-20, a certain amount of money is put aside for the 27-nation bloc to contribute to infrastructure projects that form part of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T). The former TEN-T funds have now been repackaged with money for energy and telecommunications infrastructure projects under the new Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). What has not changed is the contradiction between the requirement for a scheme to prove its ‘added value’ to the EU and its need to show economic and environmental sustainability, and this contradiction is not helped by the fact that most governments have a list of national projects they want built, many of which do not contribute to sustainability.

MEPs on the European Parliament’s transport committee voted by a large majority that CEF projects must respect environmental laws and be consistent with the EU’s target of a 60% reduction in greenhouse gases between 1990 and 2050. Together with the industry and energy committee, they also called for an additional 10% contribution for projects that link clean energy and transport.

Yet in the same voting session, MEPs weakened the Commission’s proposal in a way that will make it easier to spend CEF funds on airports and road projects. For example, they voted to add several regional airport expansion projects to the list of priorities for funding. Several extra ports, including a highly controversial port project in Tenerife, were also added to the priority list. And they left the door open for more projects to be added in 2013.

T&E’s transport programme manager Nina Renshaw said: ‘One moment they’re calling for a real network with European added value – making links across borders, stimulating innovation and cutting emissions from the transport sector in order to tackle climate change – yet in the next, they’re calling for funds for airport expansion to benefit low-cost airlines, more generosity towards road builders, and port developments on remote islands where there is hardly any traffic. It doesn’t add up.

‘Given the limited funds for transport, tough choices will have to be made about which projects should get EU money. By promoting sustainability and unsustainability at the same time, MEPs have effectively passed the decision to ministers and Commission officials. They must now stick to the goal of a clean transport network for 2050 and shut the door to harmful spending.’