EU top jobs leave big climate questions

(Climate Change News, 3 Jul 2019) Ursula von der Leyen has been nominated to lead the EU’s executive at a critical moment for climate policy, but she has no record on the issue.

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It’s not clear what the EU’s newest leader thinks about climate change.

After days of tense negotiations in the midst of an unprecedented heatwave, EU leaders finally agreed on the candidates to take on the bloc’s top jobs and set the political direction for the next five years.

At the eleventh hour, German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen was selected to be the next European Commission president, heading the EU’s executive body.

Known to few outside Germany, von der Leyen was an outsider and didn’t stand as a lead candidate. As such, she has not been subject to public scrutiny or a debate.

The new intake will determine how urgently the EU can achieve consensus on reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 and agree to ramp-up its 2030 targets. But the records of four nominees announced on Tuesday only hint at where climate change will rank in their list of priorities.

Von der Leyen is an ally of Angela Merkel in the Christian Democrats. Socially liberal, she has no record of engagement with climate policy and was strongly opposed by the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and Greens groups in the EU parliament, which hoped for a progressive coalition endorsing the socialist candidate Frans Timmermans.

In a scathing tweet, Martin Schulz, leader of Germany’s Social Democrats, said Von der Leyen’s nomination was “a victory” for Viktor Orban, the right-wing populist Hungarian leader who supported the commission president nominee. “For us, von der Leyen is the weakest minister. That is obviously enough to become head of the commission,” he said.

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Climate Change News, 3 Jul 2019: EU top jobs leave big climate questions