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13th Dec 2019

Estonian nominee's answers fails to convince all MEPs

  • Estonia is a 'supporter of shale oil, one of the dirtiest energy sources,' said Green MEP Ville Niinistö (Photo: European Parliament)

Estonian EU commissioner-designate for the energy portfolio, Kadri Simson, did not manage to fully convince MEPs with her vague proposals concerning the energy transition in Europe at her hearing on Thursday (3 October).

Danish MEP Niels Fuglsang, a member of the industry, research, and energy committee, tweeted that the socialist group was not satisfied by Simson's performance, saying she "avoided questions".

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During her three-hour hearing Simson did not provide MEPs with concrete actions or commitments for the energy shift from fossil fuels to renewables - although she said that such a transition will not hit Europe homogeneously.

"A week after the biggest climate protests the world has ever seen, Simson was ambiguous about the need to phase out fossil fuels at speed, and had no vision to accelerate the green and just transformation of our energy," according to Clémence Hutin, fossil-free campaigner at the NGO Friends of the Earth Europe, adding that her hearing was "an alarmingly weak performance" to avoid climate crisis.

Vague ideas

Responding to Danish MEP Pernille Weiss from the European People's Party (EPP), Simson said that the main tool for boosting building renovation rates is the national energy and climate plans. (Sustainable buildings are an important contribution to achieve the EU objective of nearly-zero energy building stock by 2050.)

However, the commission warned last June that the draft plans presented by member states were insufficient to achieve the 2030 targets. EU countries now have until December to tweak their plans.

Regarding the revision of renewable and emission targets for 2030, Simson said that commissioner-designate for the 'Green Deal', Frans Timmermans, will "look very closely at the extension of the current [Emissions Trading System]" in sectors such as construction and transports which are not covered yet.

Spanish MEP Sira Rego from the Group of the European United Left (GUE) told Simson that now she felt more concern about the climate emergency, as her replies "do not promise much".

Support for gas

Simson's clear passion in favour of the gas industry and infrastructure was also one of the main controversial topics of her hearing.

The Estonian nominee told MEPs that "the percentage of gas as an energy source will not reduce significantly because countries will replace coal with gas."

Speaking to Polish MEP Jerzy Buzek (EPP), member of the energy committee, Simson said that "gas is an important tool for the transition period, keeping in mind that future energy sources have to be diversified".

When "we talk about gas we are not talking about natural gas anymore" but about biogas and other types of gases, she added.

However, Colin Roche, also of Friends of the Earth, said the commissioner-designate "holds out the prospect of so-called 'low-carbon' gases bolstering the energy system," but with little knowledge about the risks.

"The commission and commissioner-elect must ensure that we urgently move to a fossil-free energy system, and immediately end subsidies for fossil gas,'' Roche added.

Simson committed to working hard to implement the Clean Energy Package.

However, Green MEP Ville Niinistö said he was "worried about this climate credential," adding that Estonia is a "supporter of shale oil, one of the dirtiest energy sources."

The EPP gave Estonia's commission-designate their okay, after what it called "a mixed hearing".

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