Under President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker, Environment will not have its own Commissioner, for the first time in 25 years, whereas climate change policies now rank subordinate to energy market priorities. Worse still, the headline of the mission of the new Environment, Maritime and Fisheries Commissioner is deregulation, instead of providing full support to the sustainability pillar of the EU treaties and ensuing the implementation of the 7th Environmental Action Plan.
In a letter addressed by the EU’s “Green 10” NGOs, the members of the European Parliament are called to vote for a change in the composition and the mission of the new European Commission, as proposed by President Juncker.
According to the Green 10: “The Juncker designate Commission represents a serious downgrading of environment and a roll back of existing EU commitments to sustainable development, resource efficiency, air quality, biodiversity protection and climate action. This would represent a betrayal of the interests of EU citizens, a vast majority of whom feel strongly about the environment. The special Eurobarometer 416 from 8 September 2014 shows that despite the economic crisis, 95% of the interviewed citizens said that protecting the environment is important to them personally and that more should be done.”
Adding to a storm of criticism that followed the announcement of the Juncker Commission on 10 September, the Green 10 call the MEPs to demand:
- Establishment of Vice-President positions for a) Sustainability and b) Climate action and energy union (upgrading the current Vice-President for Energy Union);
- Ensure the reinstatement of the environment portfolio, with a clear mandate for the new Commissioner to respect the decisions and proposals of the European Parliament and to implement the 7th Environmental Action Plan.
- Replacement of the mandate for weakening the Natura2000 directives, which was given by President Juncker to the new Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner, with a clear direction towards the strengthening and full implementation of the EU’s nature conservation legislation and achievement of the EU 2020 biodiversity target.
- “Resolve potential conflicts of interest for the nominees, and notably for the Climate and Energy portfolio”. This clearly refers to the proposed Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, former Spanish Minister Miguel Arias Cañete, who has been heavily criticised of conflicting interests, due to his economic involvement with two oil companies: DUCOR SL and Petrologis Canarias SL. In both of these oil companies, Cañete holds shares and the position of Council President.
In an earlier letter of September 11th, addressed to the European Commission’s President – elect, the Green 10 reacted to the structure of the new Commission, focusing primarily on the merger of the demanding portfolios of environment with fisheries and climate change with energy. The NGO alliance also criticised the content of the mission letters which President Juncker sent to the new Commissioners: particularly the letter addressed to Karmenu Vella, former Tourism Minister of Malta and new Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner, clearly focuses on deregulation and makes no mention to the need for strengthening environmental and green economy laws and policies.
As stated by Tony Long, Director of WWF’s European Policy Office, “WWF finds it regrettable that for the first time in 25 years the environment will not have its own designated Commissioner. This comes precisely at the time when environmental problems are looming larger on the political agenda.” “We also regret that the opportunity to create a Commission cluster around the theme of sustainable development has been missed. We call on the European Parliament to exercise its full power to make sure that a downgrading of the environment in the next Commission is not allowed to happen by default."