Essential, controversial: The EastMed gas pipeline is one of the projects to be reviewed by the EU's climate lawyers, but it may be essential to the bloc's move away from Russian LNG | Photo: Pixabay

EU: Climate lawyers to question approval for gas pipelines; Germany, Netherlands and Austria revert to coal

Climate lawyers in the EU plan to use a novel legal option, called internal review, to question the bloc’s support for natural gas pipelines as it pulls away from Russian supplies. The process will stress the fact that the approvals — primarily for pipelines through Greece and Malta, including the EastMed pipeline — violate Article 6 of the European climate law and that they would be inconsistent with the EU’s climate targets. Also, the EU allegedly did not account for the pipelines’ methane emissions, which the lawyers will argue could have serious issues for the ecologically-sensitive Mediterranean Sea. 

Meanwhile, the energy crisis in the continent has dealt a body blow to plans in the continent to shift away from coal. Over the past few days, governments of Germany, Austria and the Netherlands have lifted all restrictions on thermal power plants, with the European Commission noting on Monday that “some of the existing coal capacities might be used longer than initially expected” because of the new energy landscape in Europe. The German government will reportedly keep coal plants on stand-by for around two years in case the natural gas supplies from Russia fall abruptly and cause a shortage for the nation’s energy supply. Germany is said to have a number of oil- and coal-fired plants that can be brought online for emergency relief, but the country has, at the same time, stressed that its target of a coal phaseout by 2030 remains intact. 

India: CIL floats first-ever tender for coal imports, targets 2.4 MT 

Coal India Ltd. (CIL) floated its first-ever international tender for coal imports for a total weight of 2.416 million tonnes (MT), and the step comes as the country explores every option to boost its supply of coal for power production. The miner called for the imports on behalf of the power producers and will target for the quality to be +/- 30% 5,000 GAR (gross as received) of thermal coal, regardless of the country the consignments come from. The tender will be open till June 29 and the coal will be brought into the country through nine different ports. 

Additionally, the country produced 34% more coal in May and 26% more power (y-o-y), with 37 of the top coal mines ramping up their output to more than 100% of their rated output.

US criticises EU’s approvals for new fossil fuel projects 

The US criticised the EU’s approvals for several coal projects and oil and gas pipelines as part of the bloc’s move away from Russian fossil fuel imports, saying that the “new gold rush” for fossil fuels that had been unleashed was not compatible with the EU’s long-term climate targets. Also the flurry of project signed to set up new LNG facilities for the bloc — from Egypt, Algeria, Qatar and even the US itself — may also “lock the world into irreversible warning”, according to think tank Climate Action Tracker, because the infrastructure would be used for decades and their climate impact would far overshadow their short-term relief to the EU’s energy woes. 

Big Oil using Energy Charter Treaty provisions to sue against climate action 

A new paper in the journal Science pointed out that the world’s biggest oil and gas drillers were using the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) to sue national governments pursuing climate action. The ECT was first introduced 30 years ago and is ratified by 50 countries so far, and it allows for private companies to seek “fair and equitable treatment” of investors and the “payment of prompt, adequate and effective compensation” if and when the action affected fossil fuel projects and the companies’ (potential for) revenues and profitability. 

The litigation process itself is termed “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS), and the paper found that it had been used in the favour of oil drillers 72% of the time — and had earned them an average of $600million in compensation. At the same time, there are concerns about the ECT’s compatibility with the global net-zero targets, and the ISDS process was not designed to protect climate action. It even gives the plaintiffs a say in the judges that would preside over the litigations, and prevents the national governments from initiating any litigation against the private companies.