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European Investment Bank mulls gas-free future

By Francis Jay

Bank will take decision in November over whether to quit funding fossil fuel projects

European Investment Bank mulls gas free future

The board of the European Investment Bank (EIB) will decide in November whether it will quit funding fossil fuel projects by the end of 2020 after a delay forced by pressure from member states.

Germany, Poland and other member states argue that the EIB should continue financing projects linked to natural gas, which they say can be used to transition away from more polluting fossil fuels like coal. Natural gas emits over 50 per cent less carbon dioxide than coal when it is burned.

However, environmental pressure groups say this comparison sets the bar too low, and EIB president Werner Hoyer is pushing for the bank to stop all fossil fuel lending by the end of next year. Hoyer wants more than half of the bank’s lending to be directed towards sustainability projects by 2025, creating a “climate bank”.

Environmental advocates say meeting those ambitions would make a serious statement. The EIB is the world’s largest multilateral lending bank and quitting fossil fuels would channel billions of Euros away from natural gas towards renewable energy. The EIB funded €2bn (£1.7bnn, $2.10 bn) of fossil fuel projects in 2018, mostly related to gas.

However, the EU appears split on the issue of natural gas. Andrew McDowell, an EIB vice-president, told Reuters that he was “increasingly confident that we will achieve final approval in November.” But Annika Breidthardt, a commission spokeswoman, told a separate press conference: “Natural gas will remain an important component in the EU’s energy mix in the near future.”

In a separate development, the world’s largest wind turbine is about to start trials off the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, potentially putting cheaper and more consistently available renewable energy within reach.

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