European Union leaders announced they will be consolidating energy and environmental goals under a new commissioner, effectively axing the intergovernmental groups’ climate arm as green policies are making it harder for citizens to pay their power bills.
Former Spanish agriculture and environment minister Miguel Arias Canete was tapped by the EU Commission to take over a consolidated energy and climate office. Canete will be replacing Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger in what is seen as a huge blow to Europe’s global warming efforts.
“The EU is signaling a historical shift away from its green priority towards a new focus on economic recovery, competitiveness and energy cost,” Dr. Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Forum, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“This policy shift has been in the making for the last two years, but only now has Europe new leaders who are no longer obsessed with climate change,” said Peiser, who is based in the UK.
The change in EU energy and climate leadership was partly spurred by Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, which has put Europe’s natural gas supplies at risk. The Ukraine crisis also sparked calls for Europe to drill for its oil and gas using hydraulic fracturing and begin importing more energy from allies, like the U.S.
Europeans are also being burdened by rising energy bills from domestic green policies and EU rules that effectively mandate higher cost electricity generation from renewables, like wind and solar power. The UK, in particular has seen numerous power plants close down and is even considering WWII-style energy rationing to keep the lights and heat on this winter.
Canete preside over the drafting of new energy rules after the EU hashes out cap-and-trade reform and green energy targets in October. The former Spanish official will also have to balance Europe’s energy needs against pressures from interest groups and the United Nations to enter into a legally binding global climate treaty.
Environmentalists have expressed concerns that the EU Commission is abandoning too many of its environmental goals, especially by getting rid of its independent climate arm. Activists have even accused Canete of being too cozy with fossil fuels companies.
“The choice of a Climate and Energy Commissioner with well-known links to the fossil fuel industry raises issues of conflict of interest,” reads a letter to the EU Commission from Green10 — a coalition of environmental groups.
“The fact that sustainable development, resource efficiency and the green economy are not covered at all at Vice-President level implies a Commission that will be operating on the basis of an outdated paradigm of economic growth, one that benefits the industries and jobs of the past over those of the future, and detached from real world constraints and limits,” the coalition said in its letter.
“Canete is a surprising choice, given his connections to the oil industry,” Greenpeace’s managing director in the EU, Mahi Sideridou, told Bloomberg in an emailed statement. “To prove he is the right man for the job, he’ll have to resolve conflicts of interests and improve on his environmental record as a minister.”
Canete is a lawyer by training and worked for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government from 2011 to 2014, reports Bloomberg. Canete was elected to EU Parliament in May 2014.
He has been described as “an acute politician” by analysts and could help make the EU’s fragmented energy and environmental goals more coherent and workable.
“His number one challenge will be to bring coherence into very fragmented policies, reflecting the commission’s recent proposal to put the [emissions trading system] back in the center of EU energy and climate policy,” Laurent Donceel, director at the consulting firm G+Europe, told Bloomberg.