In his introductory address, Hoekstra, who was nominated to follow the recently departed Climate Commissioner Frans Timmermans, pleaded to be “be driven by facts, numbers science and be convinced by evidence”. In addition to the focus on science, he also highlighted the importance of solidarity between member states in climate change policy, and listening to the input of the next generation. With regards to more practical aspects of climate policy, he highlighted a wide range of financial instruments – such as taxes on aviation industry and the elimination on fossil subsidies. Given his history as the finance minister of The Netherlands, he cited funding as a prerequisite for ambition and implementation. He also emphasized the importance of dialogue, increasing climate ambitions beyond the borders of Europe, and keeping ambitions high at COP28. While he expressed his commitment to and continuity with Timmerman’s work, he also pointed out that he aims to go beyond a “caretaker”, and lay the foundations for more ambitions in EU climate strategy.
Following his introduction, MEPs were not shying away from critical comments. Hoekstra’s history with fossil industries, and his different approaches to sustainability as finance minister were brought up in multiple comments questioning his commitments. In addition, queries were raised on his stance on agriculture – which appeared to be a balancing act between expressing support and promoting dialogue with farmers, as well as committing to initiatives often criticised by them, such as the nature restoration law. In addition, MEP-s asked about industry and energy, amongst numerous other topics as well. His responses, in line with his opening statement, were often focused on financing an effective green transition. The recording of the entire hearing can be accessed here.
On the following day, the hearing of Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal (another position, that was held by Frans Timmermans), Maroš Šefčovič was held. Similarly to Hoekstra, he also highlighted ambition and continuity, agriculture and farmers – and, in addition called citizen support crucial for the Green Deal. In order to do so, he emphasized support and engagement instruments, such as the just transition funds.
Despite the tough drilling the candidates received from the MEPs during the Q&A sessions, MEPs approved, both Hoekstra and Šefčovič as Commissioner for Climate and Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal respectively, during its plenary meeting.