Thursday

23rd Sep 2021

Controversial EastMed pipeline not necessary, report warns

  • The giant gas reserves in the disputed waters of the Aegean Sea could produce almost as much as carbon as France and Spain together emit in a year (Photo: gazprom.ru)

The natural gas reserves in the disputed waters of the Aegean Sea, estimated to be worth billions, have been a sticking point in the ongoing tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

To date, only Cyprus has found gas near these waters, making it a potential major energy player in the region.

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  • Tensions in the eastern Mediterranean mounted after Turkey decided to extend the gas-exploration mission to Greek-claimed waters of the Aegean Sea this summer (Photo: MarineTraffic)

However, a new report has warned that the gas over which Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, and the EU are embroiled in a war of words could lead to an increase of greenhouse gas emissions that could undermine the bloc's climate goals.

"If only the gas already discovered in the disputed waters was extracted and burned, by 2050 it would produce almost as much as carbon as France and Spain together emit in a year," reads the report published by British NGO Global Witness on Friday (30 October).

European countries do not need the gas from the eastern Mediterranean because the current supplies from Norway, Russia, Turkey, Central Asia, and North Africa are supposed to meet exiting demand - even in the event of supply disruption.

However, the Global Witness report indicates that the new proposed EastMed pipeline linking the Aegean's giant gas reserves to Europe could lead to more carbon emissions in one year than the Polish coal-fired power plant in Bełchatów - seen as the largest fossil-fuel emitter in Europe.

The EastMed pipeline, scheduled to start operating in 2025, has been promoted by the governments of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel, who signed a joint declaration of support in January.

But it is also backed by the EU since the project falls under the fourth list of Projects of Common Interest (PCI) - a group of key energy cross border infrastructure projects in the EU, eligible for public funds through the European Investment Bank.

Meanwhile, the bloc is expected to reduce its use of natural gas by 29 percent to achieve current climate and energy targets for the next decade, while reducing its demand by 90 percent by 2050 in order to achieve climate neutrality.

"As EU demand plummets, this gas will only decrease further in value. It is critical that officials realise this before risking conflict in the region," reads the report.

'Wasteful fight'?

The British NGO noted that disputes between countries over who controls fossil fuels often turn violent, calling on Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey to pledge not to allow further drilling, avoiding a "wasteful fight".

Global Witness also urged removing EastMed's pipeline from the list of critical energy infrastructure projects.

Jonathan Gant, senior policy officer at Global Witness, said that "the quickest solution to the rising crisis in the eastern Mediterranean is for all to agree that the best place for fossil fuels is in the ground".

"At a time when the world is already facing conflict and uncertainty it makes absolutely no sense for countries to be squabbling over a resource that will contribute to climate breakdown and ultimately make the world an even less safe place," he added.

Tensions in the eastern Mediterranean mounted after Turkey decided to extend the gas-exploration mission of its research vessel, the Oruç Reis, in the disputed waters of the Aegean Sea this summer.

In early October, Greece was again irritated when Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent the Oruç Reis back into Greek-claimed waters.

And EU leaders threatened Turkey with sanctions unless it stopped "provocations" against Cyprus and Greece such as by sending new gas-drilling ships into their waters, although falling short of taking any action in their last meeting in October.

Turkey is an EU accession candidate and Nato member.

EU heads of state government will assess developments at their next meeting in December.

Investigation

The European gas trap

With the support of EU institutions, the fossil industry is investing in natural gas infrastructure all across the continent, from Tallinn to Athens and from the Baltic to the Aegean. But does Europe truly need all this natural gas?

Hydrogen strategy criticised for relying on fossil fuel gas

Civil society organisations criticised that the commission is relying on early-stage technologies that require the continued use of fossil fuels, undermining the EU's 2050 climate-neutrality target set in the Green Deal.

Portugal under fire for backtracking on gas funding

A group of member states is seeking to prolong EU funding for cross-border natural gas projects - contrary to the European Commission's plans to remove all support for such infrastructure, according to a draft document seen by EUobserver.

Ombudsman censures EU Commission on gas-projects list

The European Ombudsman said the climate risks from gas projects included on the EU Commission's list of priority energy projects were not properly assessed, urging the commission to address the "shortcomings" of its methodology.

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