European Union commissioner designate for climate action Wopke Hoekstra has proposed taxing fossil fuels on a global basis and vowed to phase out EU fossil fuel subsidies in a hearing with the climate committee in the EU parliament in Strasbourg.
During the hearing of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) held on 2 October, Hoekstra stressed the importance of phasing out fossil fuels, as well as their subsidies.
“The sooner fossil fuels become history, the better,” he said, as they are “counterproductive for the EU’s energy transition”, according to a European parliament statement issued following the hearing.
The economic bloc provided €52 billion ($61 billion) in fossil fuel subsidies over the period 2015-2021, according to European Environment Agency data.
In relation to the recent high energy prices, some member states have increased fossil fuel subsidies. Therefore, it is unlikely the EU will make much progress towards phasing out fossil fuels subsidies by 2030, the EU agency earlier said.
Hoekstra plans to tackle it and make sure the EU meets its climate ambitions by 2040.
MEPs in Strasbourg asked the commissioner designate how he saw EU priorities for COP28 and key elements of the EU’s climate diplomacy to make all major emitters more ambitious.
Former Netherlands foreign minister Hoekstra, who held a position with supermajor Shell early in his career, sees the solution in imposing a greater levy on fossil fuel emitters, not only in Europe but globally.
“I want to explore an international kerosene tax, a maritime levy, a fossil fuels tax, even a share of [the EU emissions trading scheme] proceeds — no stone should be left unturned,” the FT reported Hoekstra’s statement given in evidence to the European parliament’s environment committee.
Currently, international agreements exempt global transportation from fuel taxes, although the EU emissions trading scheme covers aviation and will be extended to shipping next year.
Hoekstra emphasised that the EU “cannot reach climate neutrality alone”.
Ahead of the upcoming UN climate change conference COP28 in Dubai, Hoekstra has called for global co-operation and stated that climate finance is key.
He underlined that building a global “loss and damage coalition” is crucial to raise finance for developing countries and help them tackle carbon emissions.
Despite the strong reasoning, the European parliament’s environment committee told Reuters that it has delayed its decision on whether to accept Hoekstra as the EU’s next head of climate change policy.