Monday

13th Jul 2020

Von der Leyen gives Timmermans green deal

EU Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen assigned on Tuesday (10 September) the management of climate action policy to Dutch social democrat Frans Timmermans, who will coordinate the European 'Green Deal' - with the support of the directorate-general for climate action (DG Clima).

The new EU commission seems decided to give a greater deal of importance to climate action in the next five years since this portfolio was assigned to one of three executive vice-presidents.

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"Protecting our planet and our shared environment is our generation's defining task," said von der Leyen, adding that the new EU commission's commitment is to become "the world's first climate-neutral continent".

According to the first female head of the commission, climate not only should be seen as an "urgent moral, human and political obligation" but also as "long-term economic imperative" based on the opportunities that the ecological transition will offer.

In the first 100 days of the mandate, Timmermans should propose the first European climate law under a new European climate pact - that will bring together social actors across Europe to create a "new climate culture in Europe".

It is unclear how far the new commission will strengthen the bloc's 2030 climate targets, under the international review of the 2015 Paris Agreement scheduled for next year.

The 2030 climate and energy framework includes EU-wide targets and policy objectives for the period between 2021 and 2030, including at least 40 percent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

"We have to be more ambitious when it comes to our 2030 emission reduction target," stated von der Leyen, who initially supported emission cuts to at least 50 percent by 2030.

Others of the duties assigned to Timmermans include protecting European diversity, working for zero-pollution ambition, coordinating efforts for an effective circular economy, and ensuring tax policies regarding climate action.

To do so, Timmermans will have to work hand-in-hand with the youngest of the commissioners, Lithuanian Virginijus Sinkevičius who is in charge of the 'environment and oceans' portfolio - as well as with the commissioner for agriculture (Janusz Wojciechowski), health (Rovana Plumb), transport (Rovana Plumb), energy (Elisa Ferreira) or cohesion policies (Elisa Ferreira).

Unconvinced

The president of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, Ska Keller, was positive about von der Leyen's decision to give the climate portfolio to Timmermans since this makes climate "a priority" for this incoming commission.

However, "executive vice-president for the 'European Green Deal' is a huge undertaking and a lot of priorities for one person," she added.

The Greens/EFA are ready to work constructively with the new commission "to build ambitious proposals to save the planet" said Keller, who warned von der Leyen that her party will be "watching closely" in order to ensure that "nice words [are] translate[d] into action".

Grillings

"President von der Leyen said that climate protection and sustainable development is a priority, [but] almost none of the proposed commissioners have a strong track record on these" stated the director of Brussels-based climate NGO Friends of the Earth Europe Jagoda Munić.

The NGO called on the EU parliament "to push nominees to prove their climate credentials in their hearings" that will take place from 30 September to 8 October. 

"Increased militarisation and closed borders – as suggested by the creation of a new defence department - will not make us feel safer. Action on the ecological and climate emergency will," Munić said.

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