Last week, activists from Fossil Free Ghent visited the AGM of Fluxys in Belgium with a message about the company’s role in building a new gas pipeline.
Local organiser from No TAP Ghent Ewoud Vandepitte explains why:
Tomorrow’s society is financed by investment decisions today. If you want to know how our politicians feel about our energy system in 2050, you’re better off taking a look at the financial plans they vote on, rather than the climate agreements they sign up to. Let’s follow the money.
Unfortunately the money our politicians manage doesn’t always walk the way they talk. Case in point: Daniël Termont – the Mayor of Ghent in Belgium.
Termont is known all over Ghent as the man who wants to make the city carbon neutral. Less well known is the fact that he, as the president of the municipally-owned company Fluxys, is building a pipeline which is supposed to supply Europe with gas from Azerbaijan (the TAP, or Trans-Adriatic Pipeline). Going carbon neutral and building new gas mega pipelines are contradictory aims. Here’s why.
Gas is not green.
If we take global warming seriously we need to end our reliance on gas. Despite the greenwash proclaiming gas as “cleaner than coal”, it’s still a fossil fuel. The methane in ‘natural gas’ is even 34 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2 on a 100-year timescale. In the first 20 years, it’s even 86 times more potent. Taking into account that impact of methane, fossil gas is not an improvement compared to coal. New fossil gas infrastructure threatens to lock us into another generation of greenhouse gas emissions we cannot afford to emit.
A project like TAP costs billions of euros and is being financed by the European Investment Bank (among others) as well as Fluxys – in which Flemish municipalities have a lot of their money. If Fluxys builds TAP and wants to see a return on the investment of Flemish public money, we become financially tied to that gas infrastructure for 30 years or more. This comes at a moment that we need less to be burning less fossil gas, not more.
Democracy and energy independence
By building TAP, we’ll be financing dubious political regimes abroad. According to TAP’s supporters, the new pipeline will decrease our reliance on Russian gas – but who will we be reliant on instead? The TAP is the final section of the Southern Gas Corridor, which begins in dictatorial Azerbaijan, where opposition journalists have been imprisoned and other human rights abuses have been documented at the hands of President Ilham Aliyev’s regime. Gas revenues keep Aliyev in power. The pipeline then passes through the increasingly authoritarian Turkey before it arrives in Europe.
Many MEPs have argued their support for TAP is based on the need for energy independence from Russia. However, it is likely that Russian gas could end up flowing through the Southern Gas Corridor regardless – which significantly undermines one of the key geo-political arguments behind the project.
A useless mega-project and stranded asset?
Third reason: the project risks the same fate as the ‘Doel dock’. Finished in 1991, it’s never seen a ship, because the petrochemical sector expanded less than planned. TAP risks being underused as well. The current gas use in Europe is half of its maximum capacity. According to predictions by the European Commission, we’ll use even less gas in the future. What’s the reason for this huge new wave of gas infrastructure projects including 96 which have Project of Common Interest status? It’s about continuing a business model that keeps the fossil fuels companies afloat.
Carbon neutral Ghent
Can Ghent become carbon neutral by 2050 and at the same time invest through Fluxys in a project to pump fossil fuels from a dictatorial regime? Global warming is a global problem and Termont can’t content himself with sweeping his own front door only. A carbon neutral economy at home is contradicted if at the same time our money keeps financing climate change and oppression abroad. Termont’s got to choose: carbon neutral Ghent or the TAP. There’s no in-between.
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