Germany risks breaking gas fund pledge made at UN climate summit

The German government’s rush to replace the gas it can no longer source from Russia risks breaking a promise it made at the UN climate summit a year ago to end funding fossil fuels abroad by the end of 2022.

Germany plans to continue funding gas projects from initial exploration and production to processing and distribution, sources familiar with talks ahead of the upcoming UN climate summit have said. will be held next week in Egypt.

Under former Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany was among 34 countries at COP26 in Glasgow which promised end public funding of overseas coal, oil and gas projects.

But in the throes of the energy crisis, his successor Olaf Scholz was considering continuing to fund so-called upstream and midstream production, sources close to discussions ahead of COP27 said.

Asked whether recent meetings with Senegal over gas field development meant he was backtracking on his commitment to Glasgow, a senior German official said this week that any future funding would come with strings attached.

“There will be no blind support,” he said. Countries receiving German funds “will have to show that they respect their [climate] commitments” and each potential gas investment would be assessed on its “individual merits”.

Germany believed the gas was needed “as a transitional energy source”, the official added. “We reserve the right to do what is necessary to make gas available as a source of energy, emphasizing at all times its transient nature.”

Those familiar with the talks said there was a split over the new overseas funding policy, which is still being worked out, within the German government, which is governed in coalition with the Greens party. .

Angela Merkel at the opening ceremony of COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021 © Reuters

Germany’s special climate envoy Jennifer Morgan recently said gas is “a bridge with an end” as she prepares to lead negotiations at COP27 on critical aspects of financing damage caused by climate change.

“We do not envisage gas contracts for more than 15 years. . . We have a legally binding greenhouse gas target for 2045. In fact, we will peak gas consumption sooner,” she told a Financial Times conference. “The decisions that are made now are really going to decide whether or not 1.5C [warming] the objective remains in sight or not. This is the battle that is taking place, not only in the market, but between companies and countries.

A weak policy could challenge Germany’s credibility on the international stage and encourage other countries that have signed the pledge but have yet to issue updated policies – such as Italy – to step up. back, climate change experts said. Rolling back “could risk putting national, European and global climate targets at risk”, one person said.

The pushback on phasing out support for gas is likely to add pressure on EU negotiators at COP27, with the bloc already accused of hypocrisy by poorer fossil fuel-dependent countries.

Upstream gas is particularly controversial because it involves support for the exploration and production of new gas, while upstream gas refers to processing and transportation. Critics say new upstream projects will do little to solve the immediate gas shortage.

The shift in Germany’s position echoes the communiqué adopted by G7 leaders at a summit in June, hosted by Scholz, at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria. The executives said investments in liquefied natural gas were a “necessary response to the current situation”. [energy] crisis” and that government support for gas “may be appropriate as a temporary response”.

The German government also said in September, in the text of a national energy package, that as part of its effort to replace Russian gas supplies with “newly developed LNG supplies”, it would seek to tap foreign reserves. of gas, although this should only happen “as part of our commitments under the Paris climate agreement”.

Talks with Senegal, where Scholz visited in May, over the development of the West African country’s offshore gas fields are seen as a test. The two governments are currently in active talks on potential energy investments.

An EU diplomat said there were concerns about Germany’s push towards fossil fuels, but the country was not alone: ​​”All European countries are stepping up their efforts on gas and energy security right now”.

But Alden Meyer, senior partner at think tank E3G, said Germany’s continued support for gas was “a matter of concern”. The COP26 commitment was “one of the strong outcomes of Glasgow. . . If there is a reaction from Germany to this COP, it will be of no use,” he added.

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