Natural gas will enable the European Union’s transition to climate neutrality, Kadri Simson told European lawmakers before she received their backing to become the bloc’s next Energy Commissioner. Simson, former Estonian minister of economic affairs and infrastructure, set-out her energy policy vision during a three-hour hearing in front of the parliament’s committee on industry, research and energy (ITRE).
Simson, who received cautious support from a majority of members of the European Parliament) MEPs, defended the use of natural gas to wean countries off coal. Gas “might be the most cost-efficient option for replacing coal-based power plants,” she told MEPs, citing energy security as another reason to invest in “future-proof” gas infrastructure.
In addition, she said LNG imports from the US had “been successful and it should be continued”. As of May 2019, about 13.4% of all EU gas imports came from the US, an increase of 272% since 2016, according to the EU Commission. She also commented that hydrogen and lower-carbon gases such as biogas would have to be used increasingly in the near future.
Simson asked to achieve “climate neutrality within a single interconnected and functioning market.” “Yes, I support climate neutrality. I think it is a good idea if we want to reach a maximum of 1.5 degrees of temperature increase in 2100 as the Paris Climate Agreement marks,” she said.
The future Commissioner of Energy, a position that – with the addition of Climate Action – currently occupies the Spanish Miguel Arias Cañete, stressed the economic viability of the paradigm shift: “We can be neutral in climate change and maintain the competitiveness of companies”, she explained and added that “you have to follow closely” prices.
“We are world leaders in energy patents but our investments are not advancing at the right pace,” Simson acknowledged and proposed to become part of the European Investment Bank (EIB) “in a climate bank.”
In the middle of the hearing, Estonia’s Prime Minister Jüri Ratas announced his government unanimously backed the EU’s 2050 net zero emissions goal – leaving just Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic to come on side.
Simson is expected to be confirmed in her new role when the EU Parliament votes on the package of nominee commissioners on 23 October.