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EU’s new green chief vows not to weaken climate ambition

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BRUSSELS: The European Union will not dilute its efforts to fight climate change, but needs to communicate better with industries worried about the cost of CO2-cutting policies, the European Commission’s new green policy chief said on Tuesday (Aug 29).

The EU has faced growing pushback on green policies this year from some member countries and EU lawmakers. Poland is taking Brussels to court over climate policies Warsaw says would worsen social inequality, while centre-right EU lawmakers have campaigned to kill off an EU law to protect nature.

“We are not going to dilute our ambition,” European Commission Executive Vice-President Maros Sefcovic said in a joint media interview on Tuesday in Brussels.

“What I believe is that we need to improve our communication and to be able to come faster, earlier and be more precise in our reactions to some of the natural worries which are there in some sectors.”

Sefcovic suggested the EU could arrange talks between energy-intensive industries and companies generating clean power. A similar effort could connect steel and cement producers with companies that plan to produce low-carbon hydrogen, a fuel heavy industries are betting on to cut CO2.

Brussels should also assess how to make it easier for clean tech companies to access funding, said Sefcovic, who runs existing EU schemes with industries to develop battery supply chains and jointly buy gas.

The United States’ massive clean energy subsidy push has stoked concerns that investors could flee Europe, and highlighted some industries’ complaints that the process to access EU green subsidies is often long and complex.

A letter from industry group Hydrogen Europe to Sefcovic, dated on Tuesday and seen by Reuters, urged him to address these concerns.

“Plenty of European companies in the clean tech and especially in the hydrogen sector have already pointed out that they are very attracted by the US measures,” the letter said.

Sefcovic took over coordination of EU climate and environmental policies last week, when his predecessor Frans Timmermans stepped down to run in Dutch elections.

The change of guard comes during a European summer of record-breaking wildfires and deadly heat – which Sefcovic called “ominous signals” of the worse impacts that will follow if countries fail to address climate change.

The EU is also appointing a new Dutch Commissioner to directly manage EU climate policies and be the bloc’s negotiator at UN climate talks in November.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday accepted Dutch outgoing Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra as the Dutch government’s nominee for that role. Hoekstra will now face a hearing the EU Parliament. 

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