So the man who worked for the oil companies became the European climate commissioner

He was an employee who helped an oil company grow, soon to be the one who will have to bury fossil energy at the European level. Conservative Wopke Hoekstra is now one step closer to becoming the new climate action commissioner, despite the burden of his past. The politician was an employee of Shell at the beginning of his career and, according to his critics, continued to act in favor of oil companies throughout his political career. However, after a close series of meetings he persuaded the coordinators of Europe’s leading political groups to approve his appointment. The only thing missing now is the vote of all members of the European Parliament assembled at the plenary meeting in Strasbourg on 5 October, but the games are almost defined. So how did Hoekstra manage to overcome the numerous resistance against him, after a campaign was signed by more than 100 thousand people in a few days and warned MPs not to support this candidacy? Political talent, compromises and a close bond with newly appointed Green Deal vice president Maros Sefcovic. green All sectors, from energy to transportation to agriculture.

new appointments

Change of duties of those responsible for the undertaking green The European Union’s new regulation was released in July after Green Deal czar Frans Timmermans resigned. At this point, Ursula von der Leyen decided to “split” the duties by giving Slovakian socialist Sefcovic the role of vice president and head of the environmental pact, meeting the socialists’ need for a senior role. On the other hand, a Dutch commissioner had to be replaced by another counterpart, and the outgoing Dutch government preferred Hoekstra, to whom the European executive decided to entrust a special climate-related package to say goodbye to fossil energy as soon as possible. As quickly as possible without losing too much money. It’s a shame that Hoekstra has been closely linked to oil companies for years.


The Dutch politician began his career with three-year trading roles at Shell, followed by a decade at consultancy McKinsey. Hoekstra criticized companies that tried to ignore evidence of their contribution to climate change, assuring at the time that he was not working on behalf of oil companies. “I find this really unethical,” he told the press, without naming specific companies. While remaining a partner at McKinsey, Hoekstra was appointed Minister of Finance by Prime Minister Mark Rutte after serving as a senator in the Upper House of the Dutch Parliament between 2011 and 2017. During his term he opposed ending drilling in the Groningen gas field. At the time of her appointment, von der Leyen was holding the role of Foreign Minister in the Rutte-led government. According to environmental organization Extinction Rebellion, the Netherlands continued to pay over 30 billion euros in subsidies and tax breaks to support fossil energy despite promises. At home, Hoekstra’s name was hostilely changed to Shellman.

severe criticism

Hoekstra fell short when he appeared before the European Parliament’s Environment Committee (Envi) on Monday, October 2, and spoke for hours. Among Hoekstra’s most vocal critics were the elected officials of the Netherlands, where general elections are held in November. “I think everyone in this room is a little surprised by your introductory remarks because, looking at your CV so far, you haven’t actually been a climate advocate,” said the Greens’ Dutch counterpart, Bas Eickhout, during the meeting. with the environmental commission. Another Dutchman, socialist Mohammed Chahim, also expressed skepticism: “You seem to be going back to your days as a consultant. You understand very well what the people in the room want to hear and you play accordingly.” At the end of the meeting, the commission decided to postpone the vote on Sefcovic’s candidacy, waiting for the other French commissioner appointed the next day to hear from Sefcovic.

double thread tie

Many MPs complained that the two appointments were linked. Some EU officials have also explained anonymously that simultaneous approval is a way for opposing political groups (Popular on the one hand, Socialists on the other) to ensure that the rival group’s candidate is approved only if it is their candidate. A two-thirds vote of the general assembly is required to approve nominations. In fact, the bonding strategy paid off.

Less vague answers

On the morning of October 4, the strategy changed and the two commissioners decided to meet only with the coordinators of the political groups in the Envi commission; they too were anxious to receive less vague answers. However, at this point the People’s Party, the Social Democrats, the liberals of a Renewed Europe and the Greens confirmed the dual candidacy of Wopke Hoekstra and Maros Sefcovic. Pascal Canfin, who serves as Envi’s president, explained in a post on the coordinators’ Platform in Strasbourg: “Their answers to our questions were evaluated positively: clarity on the 2040 climate target and clarity on pending legislation.” Climate action has come under severe criticism in recent months as voters shift further to the right and see Europe’s energy transition as too costly. At the same time, the EU’s tensions with China and the United States are increasing to secure the resources needed for green technology production. It’s a scenario that isn’t easy to solve, let alone make promises that are hard to keep. But the two commissioners were forced to hammer out key points.

Hoekstra’s promises

To gain the coordinators’ approval, Hoekstra pledged to push for the global elimination of CO2-emitting fossil fuels at the COP28 United Nations climate summit scheduled for November. He also said he would seek new sources of climate finance for vulnerable countries. The idea is to move them away from revenue from the EU carbon market. First of all, he has pledged to act harder to phase out the 52 billion euros that European bloc countries spend each year on subsidizing fossil fuels, including by removing those subsidies from the EU budget.

common calendar

By meeting with both commissioners, the coordinators would also have gained some assurances regarding timelines for the submission of some of the legislative files pending before the European Commission and a concrete commitment to the 2040 climate target. 90% (compared to 1990 levels), but at least Sefcovic mentioned “personal ambition”, as this still needs to be evaluated by other members of the EU executive. The written responses from the two commissioners include a number of details regarding the legislative timing of some proposals on mobility, wind energy and animal welfare. The two commissioners promised that the bloc would no longer spend money on fossil fuel subsidies from 2028.

Source: Today IT