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Featured photo (16/10/2021): a group of Moviment Graffitti activists hanging a banner that reads ‘an agreement stained in blood’. The banner was put up at the front gate of the ElectroGas power station, which was linked directly with the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Photo: Julian Delia

On Thursday, French MEP Marie Toussaint described the Melita TransGas pipeline – a proposed 159km gas pipeline which would transport gas from Italy to Malta and would directly feed into a corrupt power station project linked with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia – as one of “two climate bombs that could officially be supported by the EU, against its own climate targets”.

Toussaint was responding to questions from this website given her role in spearheading a draft motion for a resolution which is calling for the removal of the Melita TransGas pipeline from the 6th list of Projects of Common Interest (PCI), a list of major infrastructural projects across various countries in Europe which are set to receive massive cash injections sourced from both national and EU funding.

In general, Toussaint, on behalf of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, is seeking the removal of “any new direct and indirect fossil fuel infrastructure that might fund corruption and war” from the PCI list “while ensuring compatibility with the Paris Agreement”. The Paris Agreement, which was signed in 2015, is referred to as a benchmark due to the 1.50C global warming limit which was previously set by the EU as a key climate change target.

Yesterday, the draft motion was formally proposed within the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research, and Energy. The draft motion is only the first step in a long, bureaucratic process – it will eventually need to be finalised and approved by the committee on 22 February, then presented to European Parliament and voted on in the wider chambers as well. The vote on the motion is distinct from the vote which will be taken by European Parliament on the PCI list.

When asked whether she thinks that the type of projects submitted in the PCI list are adequate in the context of the urgency of the climate crisis, Toussaint cited “unanimous” scientific consensus which states that if we want to keep global warming below 2°C, we need to leave over 80% of all remaining fossil fuel reserves underground. The International Energy Agency calls for an immediate halt to investment in new fossil fuel projects, including gas, and for a complete phase-out of fossil fuels by 2035.

“The PCI list mixes electricity projects with gas, hydrogen and carbon dioxide transport projects: basically, on the list you have, at the same time, some good renewable electricity interconnections but also projects that will endanger our climate,” Toussaint explained.

“The list published by the European Commission contains 68 hydrogen infrastructure projects. 96% of hydrogen is still produced from fossil gas or nuclear power, and many of these projects will initially be used to transport or store gas before making the transition to hydrogen, with no real guarantee (that this will happen),” she added.

Although the European Parliament had obtained the exclusion of 100% fossil-fuels projects from the EU’s PCI lists, two projects have nevertheless obtained a derogation: the Melita TransGas pipeline which will transport up to 1.2 billion cubic meters of gas per year, and EastMed, a gas pipeline linking the Levantine basin to Europe, which would become the longest pipeline in Europe.

The EastMed pipeline, which, as the name suggests, will go through the eastern part of the Mediterranean, including within disputed waters between Israel and Gaza as well as disputed territory within Cyprus, which is divided into the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Through this draft resolution, Europe’s Greens/EFA group has sent a message to the EU Commission, which was responsible for the content of the list and the legal framework which empowers it – “no projects that could be linked with war and corruption”.

“If we don’t object the PCI list and force the EU Commission to propose a new version without certain projects, the EU will again put public money in projects that are not consistent with the climate emergency, contrary to the green deal and to our democratic values. The Melita pipeline was being investigated by Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia when she was murdered. The pipeline will be connected to a power station partly owned by Yorgen Fenech, the man on trial for Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder,” Toussaint said.

“We cannot accept that, and are urging the Commission to come with a new version of the list, without EastMed and Melita for democratic reasons, and without any project based on fossil fuels for climate emergency, so only 100% pure renewables,” she added.

Europe’s Greens aren’t the only ones who are fighting against the possibility of massive tranches of state and EU funding being deployed to fund destructive fossil fuel projects linked with corruption. In fact, the campaign against the approval of the Melita TransGas pipeline in particular was largely driven forward by Friends of the Earth (FoE) Malta and the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation.

Researcher, campaigner, and project manager at Friends of the Earth Malta Suzanne Maas reacted positively to news of the draft resolution.

“Friends of the Earth Malta is pleased to see the draft motion prepared by Marie Toussaint and colleagues on behalf of the Greens/EFA group, requesting a resolution to object to the 6th PCI List, as it includes new direct and indirect fossil fuel infrastructure which would fuel corruption and war, and go completely against the carbon emission reduction targets under the Paris Agreement,” Maas stated.

Over the past few months, both FoE Malta and the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation have been campaigning against the approval of the Melita TransGas pipeline. Their open letter was signed by 1,000 citizens and NGOs, and was sent to key decision makers such as prime minister Robert Abela, energy minister Miriam Dalli, finance minister Clyde Caruana, and to Toussaint and her colleagues on the Committee.

Referring to claims pushed forward heavily by the Maltese government that the pipeline will be able to transport hydrogen once it becomes a viable fuel source, Maas described them as “pure greenwashing”.

“Hydrogen is not the clean energy source it is made out to be; over 95% of hydrogen today is produced from fossil fuels. The €400 million in Maltese taxpayers’ money that would be spent on the Melita TransGas pipeline should instead be invested in renewable energy production in Malta, to speed up the green energy transition and promote energy security,” she added, further noting that she hopes that next week, MEPs will object to the PCI list as it stands “to move away from fossil fuels and towards a fossil free future”.

Research carried out by another NGO, Food and Water, shows that building the 68 hydrogen transport projects on the PCI list could cost at least €50 billion, with a further €22 billion in operational costs in the next 20 years, Toussaint points out, arguing that this amount of money should be redirected entirely to renewable energy production.

However, the European Union still seems to be clinging to pipe dreams being sold to them by fossil fuel giants. Besides the great red herring that is clean hydrogen fuel, there are 13 Carbon Capture Storage (CCS) projects on the list, an unproven technology that is set to cost billions to develop and guarantees no tangible, long-term solution to the problem of climate change.

“Greens do not support CCS in the energy sector, as alternatives exist, notably renewable energy to produce electricity, green hydrogen or other alternative fuels, that do not require CCS. CCS is a “false solution”: investing in CCS today avoids real solutions, namely reducing emissions at their source,” Toussaint said.

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