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Would-be EU climate policy chief seeks green light from lawmakers

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Wopke Hoekstra arrives at the Binnenhof for the Council of Ministers in The Hague, Netherlands July 14, 2023. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw//File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights

BRUSSELS, Oct 2 (Reuters) – Former Dutch foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra will try to convince European Parliament lawmakers on Monday to approve him as the EU’s next head of climate change policy, responsible for emissions-cutting measures in the world’s third-biggest economy.

Hoekstra faces a three-hour hearing in the European Parliament’s environment committee on Monday evening, seeking approval from at least two-thirds of the committee. Negative assessments have in the past prompted some commissioner candidates to withdraw.

If approved, he would take on the role as climate action faces political pushback in Europe, and as tensions mount with China and the United States over the race to manufacture green tech.

Hoekstra has the backing of the Netherlands and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen. But lawmakers want to test him – particularly those from left-leaning groups that have recently clashed with centre-right lawmakers seeking to weaken some green policies.

“We must ensure that the Commission sticks to its commitments on the Green Deal and avoids backsliding as right-wing politicians up their attacks on climate policies,” Green lawmaker Philippe Lamberts said.

Hoekstra has pledged to push ahead with Europe’s climate commitments both at home and at the U.N.’s COP28 climate summit in November where, if approved, he would lead negotiations for the 27-country bloc.

A former finance minister, he has vowed tougher action to phase out the 52 billion euros ($55 billion) that EU countries spend subsidising fossil fuels each year.

Some lawmakers have questioned whether his previous roles equip him to lead climate policy. Legislators are also expected to question him about a role working at the oil and gas firm Shell in 2002-2004.

It is not uncommon, however, for EU commissioners to take on new portfolios and work with the EU civil service to master them.

“I’ve met with him on the areas that I work on, and I’ve been very impressed,” one EU official said.
($1 = 0.9465 euros)

Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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