European Parliament ignores public pressure and approves new climate commissioner with fossil fuel track record
Following a hearing, the European Parliament has approved the appointment of Wopke Hoekstra as new Climate Commissioner despite widespread public opposition and a track record of supporting fossil fuel interests whilst serving as Dutch senator and minister.
Corporate Europe Observatory and Friends of the Earth Europe
More than 100,000 people signed a petition calling on the European Parliament to not approve the nomination of Hoekstra. 42,000 people in the Netherlands also called on the Dutch Parliament for Hoekstra to not be made Climate Commissioner.
Martha Myers, climate justice campaigner at Corporate Europe Observatory says:
“In approving Hoekstra as climate commissioner, the European Parliament intentionally ignored his track record of siding with big polluters. Expecting him to lead a fossil fuel phase out is like asking the tobacco industry to stop people smoking. It doesn’t add up.
“We need a firewall to protect decision making from big polluters, not invite them to the most powerful seats in the room.
“MEPs did demand full transparency on Hoekstra’s dark past at McKinsey, a job he continued for six years alongside serving as Dutch Senator. Hoekstra should not start his duties until this information is public and assessed for conflict of interest. A climate commissioner should not have close ties to big polluters.”
Paul de Clerck, Economic Justice Coordinator, Friends of the Earth Europe says:
“We need tangible climate action from credible leaders rather than empty words from a former fossil fuel insider with a history of opposing environmental efforts. Hoekstra's appointment is frustrating, but at least it shines a spotlight on the urgent need for solid rules to cut fossil fuel interests out of politics.”
Rachel Rose Jackson, co-coordinator of the Kick Big Polluters Out campaign says:
“Leading the EU negotiating team at COP28 will be a man who has regularly propped up fossil fuel industry interests as Dutch senator and minister. These talks are supposed to be about getting off our long-standing fossil fuel addiction, not deepening it. But the problem of big polluter influence goes far deeper than Hoekstra, which is why we need a robust conflict of interest framework at the EU and UN to prevent something like this happening again.”
For more quotes from civil society organisations around the world, see below.
For more information contact:
Martha Myers, Corporate Europe Observatory, email@example.com,
Chloé Mikolajczak, Coordinator of Fossil Free Politics, firstname.lastname@example.org, +32 486 31 18 14
Pascoe Sabido, co-coordinator of the Kick Big Polluters Out Campaign, email@example.com +44 7969 665 189
Notes to editor:
- Last week 50 organisations wrote to the European Parliament’s ENVI Committee asking for it to reject the appointment of Hoekstra due to him being inappropriate, citing the following:
- During his private and political career of over 20 years, he has no track record of individually promoting or pushing for policies and measures that contribute to solving the climate crisis. He also has no experience in international climate negotiations.
- Instead of that, he has a track record of working for over 15 years, between 2002 and 2017, with corporations that promote fossil fuel interests.
- While being minister of Finance in the Netherlands, he pleaded against rapidly ending gas exploitation in Groningen, despite the massive negative impacts gas drilling had on hundreds of thousands of citizens. This was reported in a recent Dutch parliamentary inquiry into the gas debacle.
- Earlier this year, Hoekstra, as leader of his political party, personally blocked government plans for reducing nitrogen emissions that were aiming to bring Dutch policy measures in line with EU legislation on nature protection.
- As Finance minister he provided 3.4 billion EUR in support to aviation company KLM during COVID19, without attaching any environmental, climate or other conditions to this package.
- More than 100,000 people have called on the European Parliament to not appoint Hoekstra as Climate Commissioner. For more information see here
- Video of youth activists including Greta Thunberg
- Opinion piece outlining his weak track record
"The appointment of Wopke Hoekstra as EU Climate Commissioner shows yet again the deep influence that fossil majors exert over our politics. We call on the EU to adopt a rigorous conflict of interest policy to prevent this appointment, and to instead appoint a Climate Commissioner that the young people of Europe can trust with our futures."
George Carew-Jones, UK Youth Climate Coalition
"Eyes are on Europe for its ecological debt and historical responsibility for the climate crisis. Choosing Hoekstra is a misstep that only indicates the lack of coherent action and commitments from the EU. We can no longer allow a fossil-fueled system that continues to capture institutions that are supposed to serve and respond to the needs of the people - people who are currently clamouring and mobilising in the streets for real change."
Gina Cortés Valderrama, Women and Gender Constituency
"Appointing an ex-Shell executive as EU Climate Commissioner is akin to putting a fox in charge of the henhouse. Those of us outside the EU are watching in disbelief that an avid promoter of fossil fuels is deemed a suitable lead on action to address the climate crisis."
Sara Shaw, Friends of the Earth International
"In appointing Wopke Hoekstra the EU is trashing its reputation as a world leader on climate change and signalling that its door is open to influence from climate criminals. It doesn’t matter that Hoekstra no longer works for Shell, as a senior employee he was complicit in their efforts to fundamentally undermine the efforts of the scientific community."
Keith Baker, The Energy Poverty Research initiative
"The EU must lead the fight against climate change and put the interests of humanity before those of business. This job cannot be done by someone as sensitive to oil companies as Hoekstra."
Nuria Blázquez, Ecologistas en Acción (Spain)
"The nomination of Wopke Hoekstra as the EU Climate Commissioner by German EU Commission President von der Leyen reflects a significant shift in her flagship project, the 'European Green Deal.' Hoekstra so far has clearly aligned himself with the fossil fuel industry. Entrusting him with the climate portfolio now is more than just a symbolic move; it signifies a U-turn, which was also evident in von der Leyen's 'State of the Union' speech. The Green Deal is worryingly now transforming into a pure growth strategy.
“What is needed for a socio-ecological transformation is a clear strategy that drastically curbs Europe's greenhouse gas emissions and resource consumption while avoiding social upheaval in society. If the EU sets its ambitions too low, it will make it even more challenging for adequate action at the national level like in Germany."
Susann Scherbarth, Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND e.V.)