Italy pushes to weaken European fossil fuel financing pledge

(Reuters, Brussels, 2 November 2022) Italy is attempting to weaken a pledge 10 European governments intend to make to stop export credit support for fossil fuel projects. The pressure from Italy comes as delegates from nearly 200 countries prepare for a United Nations climate change summit next week in Egypt, where world leaders will attempt to agree tougher action to tackle global warming. A group of ministers planned to make a joint statement on November 3rd committing to end public trade and export finance support for overseas fossil fuel projects by the end of 2022. The countries, which together make up the "Export Finance for Future" group, are Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Britain. [Delays in the statement's release point to controversial negotiations.] A draft of the governments' statement, seen by Reuters, said they would agree to end new direct official trade and export finance support for "exploration, production, transportation, storage, refining, distribution of coal, crude oil, natural gas, and unabated power generation". Three sources familiar with the discussions told Reuters Italy had asked to remove the list specifying which fossil fuel activities would lose such support. "Italy objects that there is no consistency between the objective of achieving strategic autonomy from Russia and the impossibility of financing the necessary infrastructure," an official briefed on Rome's position told Reuters. Italy's export credit agency SACE declined to comment. As countries attempt to balance fighting climate change with their short-term response to the energy crisis, some - including Germany - have suggested new investments in gas fields are needed. Countries are still negotiating the draft statement, which could change before it is published. Italy was the biggest backer of fossil fuels within the group, committing 8.4 billion euros in the period - with downstream oil and gas projects and gas-fuelled power plants among the projects. Italy is also moving to keep a Lukoil-owned refinery in business despite new sanctions against Russia kicking in next month.  On September 30 the European Commission approved, under EU State aid rules, a €2 billion Italian scheme for the reinsurance of natural gas and electricity trade credit risk in the context of Russia's war against Ukraine. A hard right coalition that includes pro-Russian voices just took power in Italy after running a campaign focused on energy costs and inflation.