Gas lobbyists ramp up efforts as EU mulls sustainability label

A gas pump is on display at "Route 66 Diner", which offers American diner food, in Berlin, Germany, August 15, 2018. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
  • Meetings jump in the January 2020 to May 2021 period
  • NGO Reclaim Finance analysed EU Transparency Register data
  • European Commission yet to decide if gas is sustainable

LONDON, July 22 (Reuters) - Gas industry lobbyists have stepped up meetings with European Union policymakers amid a political tussle on whether to badge the fuel as sustainable, analysis from campaign group Reclaim Finance showed.

Gas-related lobbyists held 323 meetings between January 2020 and May 2021, the NGO said in a report, citing European Union Transparency Register data, up from 295 meetings in the January 2018 to July 2020 period.

That equates to a jump in meetings from 9.5 a month to 19 meetings a month, the NGO said.

The increase comes as several governments and companies battle to include gas in the bloc's landmark list of activities that can be considered sustainable.

While excluding gas from the coveted label would not prevent gas producers from raising money via debt or equity, some companies fear it would make it more expensive. Governments, including in eastern Europe, see gas as a necessary bridge fuel as they move from coal to renewables.

Despite a group of expert advisers saying that gas power could only be included if it met stringent emissions rules - something no gas plant in Europe currently does - the European Commission has yet to make a call.

Of the 323 meetings, 27 were disclosed as being specifically tied to the EU taxonomy or sustainable finance strategy, the NGO said.

The analysis of the EU's Transparency Register data showed that the number of lobbyists operating on behalf of the gas industry rose to 776 during January 2020 to May 2021, from 759 in the prior period.

Annual spending on EU lobbying by the lobbyists, meanwhile, ranged from 64.9 million euros ($76.39 million) to 78.4 million euros, down slightly from the 68.8 million euros to 82.9 million euros range recorded in the prior period, it added.

($1 = 0.8495 euros)

Reporting by Simon Jessop; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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