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EU lawmakers to grill new climate chief on fossil fuels

EU lawmakers to grill new climate chief on fossil fuels

FILE PHOTO: Wopke Hoekstra arrives at the Binnenhof for the Council of Ministers in The Hague, Netherlands July 14, 2023. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo

BRUSSELS: Lawmakers in the European Parliament plan to grill Wopke Hoekstra, who is poised to be the EU's next climate change chief, on how he would phase out fossil fuel subsidies and set a new emissions target for 2040, a document seen by Reuters showed.

Hoekstra, a former Dutch foreign minister, has the backing of the Dutch government and European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen to become the next EU Climate Commissioner - taking over the running of emissions-cutting policies in the world's third-largest economy.

He must first pass a European Parliament hearing. Negative assessments from the Parliament have prompted some candidates to withdraw in the past.

A document seen by Reuters showed the questions EU lawmakers have put to Hoekstra ahead of that hearing, revealing the issues they plan to test him on.

"Will you push for an international agreement on ending fossil fuel subsidies, and what measures will you take to phase out fossil fuel subsidies within the EU?" the document said.

The EU has struggled to encourage its member countries to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. EU countries spent around 52 billion euros on such subsidies in 2021 - an annual total that has not decreased since 2015, EU Environment Agency data show.

Hoekstra must answer the lawmakers' questions in writing, before his Oct. 2 hearing.

The EU lawmakers also asked if he will "swiftly present an ambitious proposal for a binding and science-based target for 2040".

The new climate commissioner will propose the EU's first emissions-cutting target for 2040. That will involve balancing competing calls - including from scientific advisers recommending an emissions cut of up to 95 per cent, and industry lobbies warning that is unrealistic.

Some EU lawmakers have warned Hoekstra will face a tough hearing, to prove his readiness to lead climate policymaking - a topic that was not the focus of his previous roles as foreign minister and finance minister.

Still, EU officials say the Parliament is unlikely to reject him. Doing that would likely mean the EU does not have a new climate commissioner in place for the UN COP28 climate summit in November.

Source: Reuters/nh


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