The 12th Asia Europe People’s Forum (AEPF) was hosted in the city of Ghent, Belgium. The mayor of the city, Daniel Termont, gave a welcoming speech to the participants explaining the efforts done to make the city sustainable and green. However, Daniel Termont is also chairman of gas company Fluxys. The climate justice cluster of AEPF have thus written him this open letter.
Termont’s got to choose: Climate Justice or TAP
Tomorrow’s society is financed today. If you want to know how our politicians feel about our energy system in 2050, the investment plans they vote for are more insightful than the climate agreements they sign up to. Follow the money. Unfortunately the money our politicians manage doesn’t always walk the way they talk. Case in point: Daniël Termont.
Termont is known as the mayor of Ghent. He delivered this years’ opening speech at the AEPF. In the whole of Ghent he’s known as the man who wants to make Ghent carbon neutral. Less known is the fact that he is the president of the company Fluxys. This gas network operator is building a pipeline which is supposed to supply Europe with gas from Azerbaijan (the TAP, or the Trans Adriatic Pipeline). A plan which is problematic for several reasons.
Gas is not green – nor clean
First reason: If we take global warming seriously we need to get rid of gas. Despite its alleged green image, it’s still a fossil fuel. Methane – the main component of natural gas – is even 34 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2 on a 100 year timescale. The first 20 years it’s even 86 times more climate harmful. Taking into account that impact of methane, fossil gas mostly proves not to be an improvement comparing to coal. It is not clean, nor is it a bridge fuel. New fossil gas infrastructure only locks us into a fuel that aggravates climate change.
A project such as TAP costs billions of euros, financed amongst others by the European Investment Bank and Fluxys – majorly owned by Flemish municipalities. If these municipalities want to see this money back again, the TAP will need to deliver a return on investment for decennia to come. So if Fluxys builds the TAP it means this pipeline must be operated for at least 30 years, if the company does want to have stranded assets. This at a moment that we need to stop using fossil gas.
Democracy and energy independence
Second reason: by building the TAP we’re financing dubious regimes and human rights violations. According to TAP supporters we’d wane ourselves off Russian gas, but we’re just replacing one dubious regime with another. The TAP starts in dictatorial Azerbaijan, where political repression and criminalization of activists is common. Afterwards it passes through the ever more authoritarian Turkey. On arrival in Europe it brings intimidation, state repression and corruption to Greece, Albania and Italy, threatening the livelihoods of farmers and communities dependent on tourism.
Besides, gas production of the Azeri gas fields has been disappointing so far, which means the superfluous capacity of the TAP will most likely be used by Gazprom. That means that ironically, a pipeline built to gain independence from Russian exports might end up transporting Russian gas.
We need to hold our politicians and companies accountable for the dirty energy projects that they build abroad. The construction of TAP is impacting the lives and livelihoods of people in Azerbaijan, Turkey, Greece, Albania and Italy. The climate impacts of this mega gas pipeline will overwhelmingly affect people living in the Global South. However it is being financed by European companies and supported by the European Union, awarding “highest national priority”. Being historically more responsible for climate change, European companies and countries should take their responsibility: divest from fossil fuels and invest in a just transition.
Ghent carbon neutral
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 to Europe? Global warming is a global problem and Termont can’t content himself with sweeping his own front door. A carbon neutral economy at home doesn’t mean a thing if at the same time our money keeps financing climate change and oppression abroad. Termont’s got to choose: climate justice or the TAP. There’s no in-between.
Oil Change International
Chloé Zhu, UK/China
Climate Watch Thailand
Food & Water Europe
Environics Trust India
Asia Peoples Movement on Debt and Development
Philippine Movement for Climate Justice
Indian Social Action Forum
Oriang Women’s Movement
National Hawkers Federation India
Karavali Karnataka Janabhivriddhi Vedike
Friends of the Earth England, Wales & Nothern Ireland
Marija Mileta – Anti-LNG Terminal campaign, Croatia.
Friends of the Earth Europe
Friends of the Earth International