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October 7, 2014

European Commission: new faces and new fears for environmental action



The ongoing public hearings of the future European Commissioners before the European Parliament pose many questions and many doubts.

Last week, we observed the grilling of both Karmenu Vella, a candidate Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and Miguel Cañete- for Climate Action and Energy.

“Sustainability”, “green economy” and “competitiveness and jobs” were the buzz words coming from Karmenu Vella’s opening statement. Mr Vella expressed his strong commitment to continue the outgoing Commisionner’s –Maria Damanaki’s- fight against illegal fishing (IUU) and to implement the Common Fisheries Policy. At the same time, he underlined the fact that science in the place of politics should guide annual fishing quotas, while decisions on issues like deep-sea mining should be taken only after a meticulous scientific and environmental analysis. Saying that, Mr Vella gave a rise of hope on the protection of Europe’s marine resources. Also, he assured that Marine Protected Areas are an urgent matter that requires immediate action based on a regional approach.

However, his lack of concrete answers to questions is worrying, including the foreseen “modernization” of the Birds and Habitats Directive  by Jean-Claude Juncker, President elect of the European Commission. Will the implementation of the EU law become the foundation of his future portfolio?

The nomination of Miguel Cañete has attracted a lot of controversy for his and his family links with the oil industry. Oceana is concerned about his conservative political stance on climate and his true motivation to fully engage the EU in the process of de-carbonization its economy and a definite commitment to renewables. In the current atmosphere of the social protest against his nomination, under the slogan “stop Cañete”, the MEPs and the environmental organizations demonstrated last Thursday in front of the European Parliament. During his hearing, Mr Cañete remained evasive about important questions related to potential conflict of interests or on climate action commitment. While advocating for renewable energies and greater energy efficiency, MEPs did not forget his previous disastrous mandate as Spanish Minister for Environment.

We recognize the remarkable work of Connie Hedegaard, the outgoing EU Commissioner for Climate Action, and call on the new Commissioner to put climate change as priority on their agenda, especially at this difficult economic time in Europe. Oceana expects the newly chosen Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy will strongly oppose fossil-fuel energy and will make an ambitious commitment to energy efficiency and renewables, including marine renewable. Similarly, strict climate policy is needed to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and integrate climate adaptation measures into other EU policies.


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