Germany wants EU to work with countries on new gas fields - document

Illustration shows natural gas pipeline and EU flag
A model of a natural gas pipeline and an EU flag, July 18, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

BRUSSELS, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Germany has called for European Union states to work with countries that can develop new gas fields, prompting concern from campaigners over the climate change commitments of Europe's biggest economy as it scrambles to replace Russian gas.

EU leaders are meeting on Thursday to debate new measures to tame high energy prices and plug the gap caused by plummeting deliveries of Russian gas - a response that Brussels has said should speed up, rather than slow, Europe's shift to green energy.

In a draft document seen by Reuters, Germany said EU countries should agree at the summit to "work together with countries that have the capacity to develop new gas fields, as part of the Paris Climate Agreement commitments".

Germany is racing to find alternatives to Russian fossil fuels - both by expanding renewable energy faster, and importing more non-Russian gas. Russia supplied more than half of Germany's gas before Moscow invaded Ukraine.

But campaigners said Berlin's call to support new fossil fuel extraction undermined Germany's existing commitment to stop public funding for overseas fossil fuel projects this year.

Greenpeace campaigner Silvia Pastorelli said expanding gas extraction would deepen Europe's long-term reliance on CO2-emitting fuels.

"The consequences will be more droughts, more floods, and higher energy costs for decades," she said, urging Berlin to instead focus on expanding renewable energy and energy savings.

Asked about the draft document, a German government spokesperson referred to Chancellor Olaf Scholz's earlier statement in parliament on Thursday, when he said, "In order to replace the missing Russian gas supplies, we must also work with countries where there is the possibility of developing new gas fields; always of course in line with our commitments under the Paris climate agreement."

Scholz in May said Germany wants to pursue gas projects with Senegal, which has billions of cubic metres of gas reserves.

Under the 2015 U.N. Paris climate accord, countries agreed to try to stop global warming exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The International Energy Agency has said hitting that target would mean no new oil and gas fields should be developed.

As part of their efforts to curb climate change, countries including Germany, the United States, Britain and France pledged at the U.N. climate summit last November to "end new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022".

The pledge said exceptions could be made in "limited" circumstances that were consistent with the 1.5C target.

Reporting by Kate Abnett; additional reporting by Thomas Escritt

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