Estonia joins EU’s climate-neutral club

Commissioner-designate Kadri Simson ahead of her parliamentary hearing on 3 October. [Photo: European Parliament]

Estonia has joined a group of 24 member states in favour of an EU plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions drastically by 2050, leaving only the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland unconvinced.

During the parliamentary hearing of Estonia’s candidate for the post of the bloc’s next energy Commissioner on Thursday (3 October), Prime Minister Jüri Ratas announced his government’s support for the ambitious objective.

The plan under discussion aims to reduce emissions to such a low level that forests, wetlands and technology will be able to absorb anything that is still produced by energy, industry, transport and agriculture.

The outgoing European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete thanked Ratas for his support and said “congrats to [Jüri Ratas] and [Kadri Simson] for your commitment and determination to push for a fair, secure and competitive clean energy transition”.

Simson is in line to take over from Cañete as the next energy chief, although her future duties will lack the climate action aspect of the job. Today she faced the Parliament’s industry committee (ITRE) to answer questions posed by MEPs.

As it happened: Kadri Simson's hearing in Parliament (energy)

Estonia’s Kadri Simson was in line to answer questions from the European Parliament during an approval hearing that took place on 3 October. Read our live blog below to follow the hearing as it happened.

In the three-hour-long hearing, Simson repeatedly committed herself to the EU’s 2050 climate neutrality target and initially said that Estonia would soon sign up to it. She was later informed by an MEP that Ratas had made the announcement.

Once the European Council signs off on the mid-century strategy it will be up to the Commission to propose a Climate Law to put it into action. Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans will be responsible for that but Simson will also be involved.

“In terms of the energy sector, there will be a thorough impact assessment on the 2050 strategy,” she told MEPs when questioned about the social and economic impact of the proposed change.

The Estonian candidate made a number of statements that pleased MEPs, ranging from prioritising the ‘energy efficiency first’ principle and building performance to energy poverty.

However, her support for gas infrastructure and insistence that it is compatible with the EU’s obligations under the Paris Agreement left some lawmakers dissatisfied. Questions about her backing of fossil fuel subsidies were also inconclusive.

MEPs later agreed to give her their blessing and rebuffed the Socialist & Democrats group, which wanted to send her additional written questions to answer first.

Poland stokes dispute over net-zero emissions price and meaning

Poland has once again insisted that going carbon-neutral by 2050 is not affordable, after its energy minister concluded that the idea is “a fantasy”. But new analysis claims that the Eastern European country could get the job done on time and on budget.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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