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The Brief – Hoekstra’s first tests

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Assuming he passes through what promises to be an awkward hearing with MEPs later this month, Wopke Hoekstra has big shoes to fill.

Diplomatic experience was one of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s requests for the Dutch replacement of Frans Timmermans, who has returned to domestic politics as leader of the left-green coalition.

A former foreign minister, Hoekstra has some of that, though his tin-eared criticism of the EU’s southern members finances during the COVID-19 crisis suggests that he is not a natural diplomat.

Timmermans was one of the main brokers of the agreement at last November’s COP27 climate summit to establish a ‘loss and damage’ fund to compensate countries for the economic costs of climate change.

Working out the details of the fund will be one of Hoekstra’s main tasks in the coming weeks.

Last year’s summit set a November deadline for the international community to set up the fund. However, little detail has emerged on what the ‘loss and damage’ fund will look like.

During meetings by negotiators in the Dominican Republic this week, developing countries demanded a fund worth at least $100 billion a year by 2030.

However, the size of the fund is, arguably less important than the board’s composition, which will decide how and where the money is spent.

A proposal by the United States published this week stated that the fund’s board should include ten members from the wealthy Western Europe and Others group, which includes North America, Australasia and Turkey and hosts about an eighth of the world’s population.

Africa would get two seats, as would small island developing states and the world’s poorest nations – known as Least Developed Countries.

Unsurprisingly, the plan has been angrily rejected by delegates from developing countries and civil society. It’s unclear whether the EU will support the US blueprint, but having a board skewed in favour of wealthy and predominantly, high-polluting countries would be a clumsy and counterproductive move.

Timmermans’ handling of the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which will require foreign importers to pay a carbon price equivalent to that paid by European producers under the EU Emissions Trading System, left much of the Global South deeply frustrated at what they perceived as a patronising lack of consultation.

Implementing CBAM and making good on the Commission’s promises that developing countries who are tiny carbon emitters won’t be punished by it is one of Hoekstra’s tasks.

Timmermans’ legacy is the ‘Fit for 55’ programme to cut carbon emissions across the EU. Hoekstra’s will be to implement that programme and to encourage other countries, particularly in the Global South, to adapt to EU standards.

That will require diplomatic give and take. The loss and damage fund and CBAM will be vital early tests.

The Roundup

EU enlargement by 2030 is doable, but only if the candidates and the bloc itself “redouble their efforts“, Enlargement Commissioner Oliv?r V?rhelyi told EURACTIV, adding that the European Commission plans to make “substantial proposals” in October.

The European Commission is considering watering down a carbon neutrality requirement for e-fuels to allow combustion engine cars to be sold after 2035, internal documents show, suggesting a split in the EU executive on handling the matter.

The French government is considering raising the price of cigarette packets in the 2024-2027 period as part of discussions on how to finance the social security budget, while a leading anti-tobacco alliance and some parliamentarians criticised the measure as too lenient.

Kazakhstan will hold a referendum to decide whether to build its first nuclear power plant, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said on Friday, adding that the date would be decided later.

Detection orders are the focus of several informal documents distributed during this week’s technical meetings in the European Parliament about the draft law to prevent online child sexual abuse.

Last but not least, don’t miss this week’s Tech Brief and the Agrifood Brief.

Look out for…

Informal meeting of agriculture ministers on Sunday-Tuesday.
Informal meeting of development ministers Monday-Tuesday.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Alice Taylor/Nathalie Weatherald]



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