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‘Tone-deaf’ fossil gas growth in Europe is speeding climate crisis, say activists

Tone-deaf’ fossil gas growth in Europe is speeding climate crisis, say activists

Campaigners have issued a stark warning that Europe’s expansion of fossil gas infrastructure is exacerbating climate change and increasing dependence on unfriendly regimes.

According to analysis by the campaign group Beyond Fossil Fuels, only four of Europe’s gas-fired power plants have concrete plans for retirement, while new projects are set to boost the continent’s gas generation capacity by 27%. This trend directly contradicts the International Energy Agency’s recommendation for wealthy nations to decarbonize their electricity grids within the next decade to prevent global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5°C.

Alexandru Mustață, a campaigner at Beyond Fossil Fuels, emphasized the urgent need for governments to signal to the gas industry that its days are numbered. He highlighted the risks associated with continued reliance on gas, including security vulnerabilities, volatile energy prices, harmful emissions, and the potential for stranded assets.

Despite pledges made by countries like Italy, the UK, and Germany to predominantly decarbonize their power sectors by 2035, the analysis reveals a significant gap between rhetoric and action. Only a small fraction of Europe’s gas-fired power capacity has a planned retirement date, with the majority of projects focused solely on electricity generation without clear plans for reducing emissions.

Beatrice Petrovich, an analyst at the climate think tank Ember, stressed the diminishing role of fossil gas in Europe’s energy transition pathways. She emphasized the importance of robust policies to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy, grid upgrades, and clean flexibility measures, which not only mitigate temperature rise but also benefit consumers and reduce the risk of price volatility in the gas market.

Amidst geopolitical tensions and soaring gas prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, European governments have accelerated investments in fossil gas infrastructure. However, Dr. Chris Bataille, a researcher at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, cautioned against overreliance on gas plants, emphasizing the need for a swift transition to cleaner energy sources. While some argue for the potential role of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology in mitigating emissions from gas plants, others remain skeptical, citing high costs and limited feasibility.

Ultimately, the push for fossil gas expansion poses significant challenges to achieving climate goals and underscores the urgency of transitioning to renewable energy sources.

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