EU failed to properly assess climate risk of gas projects, watchdog says

The European Commission granted priority status to natural gas projects without properly assessing their impact on climate change, the European Union’s Ombudsman said in a decision on Tuesday.

The EU Ombudsman launched an inquiry in February into the Commission’s process for approving fossil fuel projects as “Projects of Common Interest” (PCI) – a label that means they can receive funding from the bloc and fast-tracked permits.

In the conclusion of its inquiry, the Ombudsman said the Commission’s sustainability assessments of gas projects had been “suboptimal”.

The Commission acknowledged a lack of data and inadequate methodologies in the sustainability assessment of gas projects.

“Given the EU’s objectives concerning climate change and sustainability, it is regrettable that gas projects were included on previous PCI lists, without having their sustainability properly assessed,” said the Ombudsman.

None of the 32 gas projects on the latest PCI project list were selected on the basis that they would make a significant contribution to sustainability, the Ombudsman said.

“Both the Commission and the complainant agree that sustainability assessments of candidate gas projects have been suboptimal. As a result, the sustainability of gas projects that were included on the fourth PCI list (and previous lists) has not been sufficiently taken into account,” according to the Ombudsman.

The European Commission could not immediately be reached for comment.

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