Green Deal: EU’s Timmermans rules out ‘break’ in the green transition

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Timmermans, who spearheads the fight against climate change for the Commission, however made clear on Friday there was no time to lose, as the world faces "a risk of ecocide that poses a threat to the survival of humanity". [STEPHANIE LECOCQ/EPA-EFE]

European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, said on Friday (2 June) he was opposed to any “break” in the green transition, in a thinly-veiled critique of Emmanuel Macron’s call for a “European regulatory break” on environmental constraints.

The French president said last month that a break was necessary to help industry digest the standards of the European Green Deal, adopted in 2019.

“We are implementing what we have decided, but we must stop adding to it,” Macron said in a speech on 11 May.

“The risk we run otherwise is, basically, of being the best performers in terms of regulation and the worst performers in terms of financing,” he added.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo then rallied to Macron’s side, making the case that companies should not be “overburdened” by environmental standards.

The European Commission, meanwhile, remained silent on the matter.

Macron calls for 'regulatory break' in EU green laws to help industry

French President Emmanuel Macron called for a “regulatory break” on Thursday (11 May) to help industry digest the standards of the European Green Deal, a call that has caused quite a stir among observers and EU politicians.

No time to be paralysed

However, Timmermans, who spearheads the fight against climate change for the Commission, made clear on Friday at a conference at the Jacques Delors Institute that there was no time to lose, as the world faces “a risk of ecocide that poses a threat to the survival of humanity”.

It becomes necessary to “recalibrate our institutions” in order to handle this new urgent situation, he told the conference.

As such, “we do not have the luxury of a break […], we don’t have the time to be paralysed” on battling climate change, in a subtle reference to Macron’s previous remarks.

Any attempt to manipulate the climate change debate only fans the flames of “culture wars” within the EU, the Commissioner said, stressing the danger of “closing our eyes to scientific realities”.

Instead, he called on Europeans to think in terms of “good ancestors”, the logic of which is embedded in the maxim: “Even if I have to make an effort that costs me a great deal [to limit global warming], I know that my children and grandchildren will consider me a good ancestor”.

Industry will be driver of European decarbonisation, French minister says

In an interview with EURACTIV, French Industry Minister Roland Lescure underlined the role of big industries in reaching the bloc’s climate targets, through the key pieces of legislation moving currently being negotiated at the EU level.

Nature Restoration Law

Timmermans also railed against the current deadlock in the European Parliament over the Nature Restoration Law, which is due to undergo a vote in the Environment Committee on 15 June.

“We can’t save the climate without saving nature,” he said, adding that “if we don’t give nature time to regenerate, the Green Deal will fail”.

The proposal aims to tackle the rapid decline in species numbers and in the health of Europe’s ecosystems, by fostering healthy habitats that can support sustainable farming, store CO2 and reduce the impact of extreme weather like floods.

On Wednesday (31 May), MEPs from the right-wing European People’s Party (EPP) walked out of the negotiations, claiming that the impact assessment on food security, reduced farmland and the renewable energy roll-out was incomplete.

Nature Restoration Law on knife edge as centre-right EPP walks out on talks

The EU’s flagship Nature Restoration Law has suffered another blow as the largest group in the European Parliament, the European People’s Party, walked out of negotiations ahead of a crucial vote in the environment committee on 15 June.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

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