‘Oil baron’ approved as EU Energy and Climate commissioner

MEPs last night (8 October) approved Miguel Arias Cañete as the new EU Energy and Climate Commissioner, despite widespread concern from environmental groups about his background as an 'oil baron' and a petition signed by nearly 600,000 European citizens against his appointment.

Cañete was approved by a wide margin, with an 83-42 yes/no vote, but concerns about his suitability remained, thanks to his former position as chairman of two oil companies, and his ‘poor track record’ as Spain’s environment minister.

Friends of the Earth Europe director Magda Stoczkiewicz said: “Friends of the Earth Europe is disappointed that the Parliament has supported the candidacy of Mr Cañete, who we believe continues to have conflicts of interest. People will be watching his actions closely and he will have to prove he is acting independently, and working for the benefit of the climate, not polluters.”

Online activist network Avaaz organised the anti-Cañete petition, which garnered 574,000 signatories from across Europe.

Following the result, Avaaz campaign director Luis Morago said: “Today, MEPs betrayed our hopes and placed a ‘petrol-head’ in charge of Europe’s climate policy. They have neither ‘listened to Europe’s voters’ or ‘given people back trust in the EU’ as was promised during the European election campaigns.”

Environmental record

Avaaz also highlighted Cañete’s ‘appalling’ record as the Spanish environment minister, where he greenlighted oil explorations in the pristine waters off the Canary Islands.

In his new role, Cañete will oversee EU directorates general for climate and energy, which will remain two separate entities. He will also be responsible for the planned introduction of an overhaul of the EU emissions-trading system, the world’s biggest cap-and-trade program.

Another key part of Jean-Claude Juncker’s newly-formed energy union was resoundingly shot down, when Alenka Bratušek was rejected as senior Energy Union Vice-President by 122 votes to 13.

Back in September, Juncker announced the creation of the European Energy Union, which he said would ‘strengthen the share of renewable energies and increase Europe’s energy efficiency, in turn creating jobs and reducing costs’.

Brad Allen

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie