EU infrastructure budget to prioritise climate spending

The European Commission has announced a commitment to spending at least 60% of the EU’s cross-border infrastructure fund on schemes that help the fight against climate change. T&E has largely welcomed the announcement, though it criticised the proposal to count EU funding for gas projects towards the climate spending goals.

The commitment to decarbonising transport has come in the EU’s budget for 2021-27. Over many years, environmental NGOs have criticised the Commission for committing to fighting climate change with one policy statement but then allocating funds to projects that undermine EU climate goals.

Under the proposed budget, the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) will have €42.3 billion, of which €30bn will go to transport. The proposal also says 60% of the overall €42.3bn must be used for ‘climate spending’ to assist in tackling climate change.

T&E’s freight policy officer Samuel Kenny said: ‘With this budget, the Commission has an opportunity to effectively promote smart electromobility powered by clean, renewable electricity, a mix which we welcome. Combined with national but also private spending, this plan can help build the infrastructure needed to make the e-mobility revolution happen in Europe.’

The proposal also lists the kinds of projects that will qualify for the 60% set aside for ‘climate spending’. They include clean energy generation infrastructure such as electricity transmission and storage, smart grids, and renewable energy, alongside rail investment and clean urban transport. Incentives for so-called ‘synergy’ projects that link transport with energy or digital innovations would also qualify.

However, gas will also be eligible for EU funding and count as ‘climate spending’, despite a T&E study in 2016 showing that vehicles powered by CNG and LNG have no meaningful climate benefits compared with conventional vehicles. Kenny added: ‘Promoting gas makes no sense at all from a climate, air quality or energy security point of view, and is frankly a waste of public money.’

The Commission will also invest in transport infrastructure with the European Regional Development Fund. T&E said it’s imperative that the entire budget shares the objective to only invest in projects that help decarbonise transport.