New EU President appears to downgrade climate change

Photo credit: European People’s Party via Flickr.
By Anders Lorenzen

The EU’s President elect Jean-Claude Juncker last month unveiled his proposed new EU Commision.

If you see climate change and environmental issues as important you might be worried by the announcements.

In a commission focused on establishing growth, climate change appears to have been left low on the agenda, in fact so low the that the climate portfolio Climate Action will be shelved along with the Climate Commissioner which had been held by Connie Hedegaard (though her term would have ended regardless).

Environmentalists would be particularly sorry to see Connie Hedegaard to go, who had been a strong voice in getting the EU to approve tougher climate targets as well as her work in starting to reform the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS).

In Juncker’s proposal the Climate Action portfolio will be merged with the Energy Policy and led by the Spaniard Miguel Arias Cañete. In a press release by Mr. Juncker’s office it is argued that it makes sense that renewable energy and climate policies are led by the same commissioner.

The new EU Commision are subject to approval from the EU Parliament. If approval is given following several hearings currently underway in the European Parliament, the new EU Commission will formally be appointed by the European Council in November.

Greenpeace have, in a statement, hinted that they are not overly pleased about the announcements and point to the fact that Mr. Cañete has got links to the oil industry which is not a good start. It is vital that the minister steers the EU towards a clean and efficient energy system and takes on deep carbon cuts, the environmental group said.

The Greens in The European Parliament has in a blog post expressed concerns about the merges of the climate and energy portfolios which they fear is a downgrading of the EU’s commitment to tackle climate change. However, stated that nothing is settled yet and that this is only a proposal. They pointed out that it’s important that MEP’s across the board assert their reservations, but also hinted at this stage before the hearings begin; it is not possible to have a clear understanding what the proposals would mean.

In related news, the Fishery and Environment commissions have also been merged.

Environmentalists will be worried that portfolios in relation to the environment have been reduced from four to two and that the EU’s commitment to tackle climate change could be downgraded in the wake of the urgent issues like the financial crisis and the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

Sub edited by Charlotte Paton

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