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'Fossil fuels still needed during green transition', top EU official says

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Frans Timmermans
Frans Timmermans   -   Copyright  FRANCOIS LENOIR/AFP
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One of the EU's highest ranking members says that fossil fuels will still be needed as the continent transitions to a green future.

Speaking exclusively to Euronews, the European Commission's Executive Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, explained that some countries will need "a transition of fuel" as they move towards renewable energies, "even if it's still fossil fuels".

"So, if you move from coal, for instance, to sustainable and in the intermediate period you use natural gas, already the natural environment profits because the emissions will go down quite substantially. So excluding fossil fuels completely from the mix at this stage, it's where we need to get, but at this stage I think it will help us make the transition if we take natural gas into the mix," he told Euronews.

Timmermans, who is also the Commissioner in charge of the EU's flagship climate policy, the Green Deal (which aims to make the continent carbon neutral by 2050), was speaking after the continent's pandemic recovery package was criticised for channelling funds into fossil fuels.

There are also concerns that the bloc's climate ambitions are taking second place to financing the coronavirus recovery, as Europe's economy continues on a downward spiral.

But Timmermans does not share this concern.

"Well, I do think now there is a heightened sense of emergency [over the environment]. The fact that in this pandemic, when we talk about the recovery, we say that none of the money spent on the recovery should go against our climate goals and that 37 per cent of that money should be spent on climate policy."

However, when EU leaders decided upon the €750 recovery package, they cut some green cash lines.

Among them -the Just Transition fund - aimed at helping coal-reliant countries, such as Poland, to move towards more sustainable energy sources, which was cut from €40bn to €10bn.

"I would take a more positive attitude because the initial proposal for the Just Transition Fund from the European Parliament was €5bn, so in fact we're doubling it vis-a-vis the initial proposal. Of course, the Commission would have loved to have had €40bn, but choices were made and compromises were found," the Executive Vice-President explained to Euronews.

But the success of the Green deal also depends on EU leaders, who last week delayed a decision to further cut greenhouse gas emissions to December and who also have a final say in signing off the pandemic recovery fund.

Another sign that climate deals across all 27 Member States can take time and a mild dose of compromise.