4th Dec 2023

Hoekstra pledges to phase-out fossil fuel subsidies

  • 'Fossil fuels must become history. The sooner, the better,' said Wopke Hoekstra, a former Shell employee (Photo: EU Commission)
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Wopke Hoekstra, the former Dutch minister of finance and commissioner designate for climate action, vowed to lay the basis for a Green Deal 2.0 in his bid to convince members of the climate committee in the EU Parliament in Strasbourg on Monday (2 October).

He would not be a simple "caretaker commissioner," said Hoekstra, even though his term will end with the current commission next year.

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He pledged to commit to reducing CO2 emissions by 90 percent by 2040 and finalise plans in January, following the advice of the EU advisory board for the climate. And he had some strong language on phasing out fossil fuel.

"Fossil fuels must become history. The sooner, the better," said Hoekstra, a former Shell employee. "The fact that certain oil majors have long known about their role in climate change and sought to ignore the evidence, I truly find unethical."

He also advocated for a global kerosene tax for aviation, telling MEPs that the cost of fuel at "the pump" consists of sixty percent taxes in the Netherlands, describing the discrepancy as "absurd."

To garner support from his own political group, the European People's Party (EPP), he also promised assistance for farmers who have a "right to earn a decent living."

"Your CV isn't great," Greens MEP Bas Eickhout told Hoekstra and pushed him to commit to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.

Hoekstra then described fossil fuel subsidies as "outdated and counterproductive."

"I will make sure that fossil fuel subsidies will no longer be part of the next MFF," he said, referring to the long-term EU budget set to start after the current one ends in 2027.

Green MEP Michael Bloss later said the commitment to phase out subsidies was "positive" but asked whether Hoekstra "could be trusted."

"We need more information," Bloss said.

Hoekstra also reiterated his promise to lead the EU's Nature Restoration law through the negotiations between member states and parliament—a law vigorously opposed by his own political group in the EU parliament and also by the Dutch government.

Alberto Allemanno, a law professor at the HEC Paris Business School, was not impressed and tweeted that the number of commitments made by Hoekstra was "not only hyperbolic but also ridiculously implausible" due to the limited amount of time left for this commission.

Tough questions at the hearing itself were rare, and most of the harder ones were fielded by Dutch MEPs. "You're retreating back into your former role as a consultant. You know exactly what people want to hear. How credible are you," Socialist & Democrats MEP Mohammed Chahim told Hoekstra.

Hoekstra later said he is "pro-state intervention" on climate change, adding that he is "deeply committed" to making the world a little better.

After delaying the appointment of Hoekstra on Monday evening, the climate committee again failed to reach a two-thirds majority to endorse Hoekstra and Maroš Šefčovič, who sat in a hearing the following morning, on Tuesday.

Both have been asked to respond to written questions before 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning, after which the committee shall again try to reach the majority needed to approve both candidates.


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