Angela Merkel criticises EIB decision to ban gas lending

The German chancellor made the comments after incoming EU Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen praised the bank’s progress on climate action

German chancellor Angela Merkel (Photo: Deposit Photos)

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she disapproves of the European Investment Bank’s decision to ban funding for natural gas projects by the end of 2021, days after the German government agreed to the new guidelines.

Merkel criticised the European Investment Bank’s (EIB) decision to ban funding for natural gas projects by the end of 2021. As Germany exits both nuclear and coal, natural gas is needed as a bridging technology in the energy transition, Merkel said in a parliamentary speech on the 2020 federal budget.

“That is why I find it rather complicated that the European Investment Bank decided to no longer finance gas as a bridging technology. I don’t think that this is right,” Merkel told parliamentarians. The German government supported the EIB’s decision to end gas lending earlier this month.

In a parallel speech in the European Parliament, European Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen praised the EIB’s decision, saying she was happy about the “progress”  made “to strengthen its role as EU climate bank.”

European Investment Bank ends lending to fossil fuel projects

Alexander Reitzenstein, climate and energy policy advisor at the environmental think-tank E3G, called Merkel’s remarks “a shocking and surprising statement” given the German support a little more than a week earlier.

Before supporting the EIB’s decision, the German government had initially opposed the bank’s plans to purge its loan books of fossil fuels, including natural gas, by 2020, according to reports.

German economy minister Peter Altmaier previously insisted that natural gas as a “bridging technology” would “remain an important element of Germany’s energy supply system for many years.” Germany owns 16% of the EIB’s shares.

While the chancellor criticised the bank’s decision in Berlin, president-elect of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen – a close Merkel-ally and a member of Merkel’s Conservative CDU party – lauded the “progress” the bank made “to strengthen its role as EU climate bank.”

In her speech in the European Parliament ahead of a vote to confirm the new European Commission, Von der Leyen said if there was one area where the world needed EU leadership, it was on protecting the climate. “Climate change is about all of us. We have the duty to act and the power to lead,” she said.

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Merkel named climate change as one of two main issues that are crucial for Germany’s future economy, prosperity and jobs – the other being digitalisation – and highlighted Germany’s role. “If a country like Germany represents one percent of the world’s population and causes two percent of CO₂ emissions and possesses the best technologies, who if not we should show that it is possible to counter climate change?” she said.

She also warned of the urban-rural division: “If we as politicians don’t help those in the city with affordable living and those in rural areas who talk about what they gain from wind power expansion aside from a 220-metre-high turbine right next to them, then we will not succeed” with the energy transition, she said.

This is an excerpt of an article first published by Clean Energy Wire.

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