Oil flows through Cañete’s veins

12 December 2015

Oil flows through Cañete’s veins

By Anne Marie Mineur - European Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete is a jovial man. He jokes, claps you on the shoulders and gives the impression that he is just as worked up about climate change as are the rest of us. We’re doing this together, is the message, and he’s there for us. But we shouldn’t attach much value to his words, as you’ll see if we examine his deeds.

The European Commission led by Jean-Claude Juncker promised to put all of the Commissioners’ appointments on the website. Lobbying watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) has gone through the agenda for the first year of both Miguel Cañete and Maroš Šefčovič, the Commissioner responsible for the Energy Union. The figures are not encouraging. Of 927 appointments 72% were with representatives of corporate business, a good half of them from the energy sector. Both Commissioners together spoke with a paltry four sustainable energy companies.

We were also forewarned, at least in the case of Cañete. Cañete is a former oil baron. This came out when he was appointed European Commissioner. He has sold his shares in his in-laws’ oil firms, but given that his brother-in-law succeeded him as Chairman of the Board of Directors, the appearance of a conflict of interests has still not vanished. Oil still flows through Cañete’s veins. Maroš Šefčovič was appointed to keep a close eye on Cañete, but he’s not going along with this in all that tough a fashion.

And given his jovial tone there’s little to show that Cañete has mended his ways. Okay, he argues hard for aviation and shipping to be included in the climate treaty, a burning desire of the European Parliament. But because the European Union is actually the only power that wants this, it couldn’t do it without a great deal of risk. As for complying with the plans put forward by the various countries, however, no-one’s heard him advocate that. Cañete would be satisfied with an initial check in 2021. In six years a lot can happen and a lot can go wrong too. Neither does he see it as necessary to advocate any approach which involves doing without fossil fuels. As long as it’s climate neutral, that’s definitely sufficient.

The biggest trick that Cañete came up with is the so-called High Ambition Coalition, a coalition which it is said consists of a hundred countries, including the EU and US, with major ambitions for the climate. Yet one of the countries which set it up, the Marshall Islands, let slip that in reality it includes just fifteen countries. In fact it was precisely the US and EU who argued, behind closed doors, against the High Ambition Coalition’s fine plans. The application of a target of 1.5% maximum temperature increase, and the setting up of an aid fund for countries which undergo permanent damage from climate change, would have to go.

It isn’t possible for the Parliament to sack an individual Commissioner. And perhaps that’s why no-one’s taken the trouble to try. But for the image of European politics, for democracy and for an ambitious climate agreement, Cañete’s a disaster.

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