The “Kontra LNG” campaign is since the end of 2017 actively opposing, through public actions and legal work, the EU Commission backed LNG terminal project on Krk island in the Adriatic sea, denouncing its serious impacts on the environment and local community as well as the pointlessness of such fossil fuel new infrastructure in the current context of climate crisis and necessary urgent fossil fuels phase-out.
One of the main current trends in the energy sector is to present Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) as transition fuel to enable the coal and oil phase-out urgently needed in nowadays climate crisis. This trend -backed up by the strong “Green gas” lobbies – is pushing the construction of big infrastructures, with huge investments, through whole Europe and South East Europe as well, declaring them Projects of Common Interest (PCIs), and putting under big pressure local communities and the environment. Nevertheless how LNG is presented, Gas is also a fossil-fuel which contributes to CO2 and other greenhouse gases emissions to the atmosphere.The use of Gas is not a real step towards reducing emissions and stopping the planet temperature rise, according to Paris agreement and EU climate change policy objectives. And if it were so, being the final goal the net-zero emissions and complete decarbonization by 2050, any investments in gas infrastructures at the moment, considering the big impact they have in the environment and local communities, are not reasonable at all, both economically and in terms of sustainability, being much more efficient to turn those investments into real sustainable energy sources. This position was already included in the foundational concept and vision of SEENET as one of the main pillars of the network mission and work.
In Croatia, Environmental organizations campaigning against climate change have been over the years opposing Gas infrastructure developments in that country. A highlight in that context is definitely the “Kontra LNG” (against LNG) campaign, which since the end of 2017 is carried out by Zelena Akcija/Friends of the Earth Croatia together with Zelena Istria, and supported by Fridays for Future – Zagreb.
The goal of the campaign “Kontra LNG” is to stop the realisation of the LNG terminal project on the island of Krk – including the floating and onshore terminal – as well as all new supporting infrastructure in Croatia. Being the terminal’s initial annual capacity planned to be three times Croatia’s annual consumption, this project is not only harmful to the environment, climate, tourism, etc., but it is economically unprofitable and unsustainable. Gas is not a transition and clean fuel because it will prolong the dependence on fossil fuels, slow down the transition to a low-carbon economy, and exacerbate the already existing consequences of climate change.
In 2015, the government turned the LNG terminal on Krk into a strategic investment project, completed an environmental impact assessment procedure and was granted a location permit. In 2016, it was decided to accelerate the project by adding a floating terminal at first, with the on-shore terminal coming later. In 2017, thanks to its PCI status, the project received no less than €102 million of European public subsidies for the implementation of Phase 1 of the project. The project has been strongly politicised and prioritised by the Croatian government and the European Commission, but it casts serious economic, environmental and climate doubts. The project 1st stage – floating form – has been strongly opposed by all local municipalities from Krk Island, the Primorsko-Goranska County and local environmental NGOs, together with Zelena Akcija/Friends of the Earth Croatia.
A really contradictory point at the moment is the mentioned EU Commission contribution to the project. Actually, the EU Commision is the main financial contributor to the project (€101.4 million from the Connecting Europe Facility of a total of €233.6 million), while at the same time the EU Commission is the one demanding from its members bigger ambition in the decarbonization goals of their National Climate and Energy Plans. One of the campaign’s actions, perfomed together with Fridays For Future Zagreb was pointing to this issue. In this set of things, and despite local community, civil sector and experts opposition, the Croatian government, instead of following Sweden’s example (Sweden rejects major gas terminal on climate grounds) keeps on with Krk LNG terminal construction plans.
Of major importance in the campaign is all the legal work made against the legal procedures and the environmental permit granting process, through which Croatian government has taken highly controversial and legally questionable steps, as for example, adopted a special law in June 2018 to fast-track the procedure of building the LNG terminal, and favoring LNG with many long-term concessions – colloquially known as LEX LNG. While the law aims at regulating the settlement of property relations at the location of the terminal, it consists of a long list of favors given to LNG Croatia, endangering the preservation of Croatia’s most valuable goods, the sea and the coast, and the environment in general. Beyond its problematic content, the process was also paved with illegal procedural mistakes – the law was in public debate for only 15 days rather than the required minimum 30 days to allow sufficient public debate.
In that terms, one of the main activities has been a legal case against the Croatian Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy Decision on the Acceptability to the environment of the Floating LNG Terminal. The environmental impact assessments (EIA) carried for the Krk LNG terminal is full of omissions and procedural mistakes. The authors of the EIA for the Krk LNG terminal hence rejected 80% of the 845 objections made by the 160 applicants who took part in the consultation. Three lawsuits against the validation of this controversial EIA were filed by Zelena akcija/FoE Croatia, jointly with the local NGO Zelena Istra, by Omišalj Municipality and Primorsko-Goranska County. Unfortunately, the Rijeka Administrative Court dismissed all three lawsuits after the second hearing in February 2019, stating that “there wasn’t any illegality in the process of enacting the decision on the environmental impact assessment”. The plaintiffs appealed to the High Administrative Court, but the outcome has not been positive.
Regarding the relevance of this issue for the South East Europe region and for SEENET network itself, moreover in the context of the world mobilizations demanding urgent political action to halt the climate emergency, as well as the current political discussions in the EU and SEE region regarding countries Energy Strategies and National Climate and Energy Plans till 2030, organizations behind the “Kontra LNG” campaign consider to ask at this moment for support from SEENET network. The support is asked both in terms of visibility and support to their activities and demands, as well as solidarity actions with their fight, and through a “Support SEENET network and members” subgrant to cover the costs of the legal cases carried out and resolved in the last period.