BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Estonia’s candidate for European energy commissioner, Kadri Simson, claimed on Thursday she is committed to climate goals as she was pushed by EU lawmakers over her country’s unwillingness to back the bloc’s ambitions for zero emissions by 2050.
Interrogated about her policy on fossil fuels as Estonia’s former energy minister, Simson supported incoming EU chief executive Ursula von der Leyen’s pledge to suggest legislation to make the European Union carbon neutral by mid-century. Simson was speaking at her confirmation hearing.
Von der Leyen’s team is facing more headwinds than any of its predecessors, amongst concerns about possible battles of interest, corruption or financial irregularities among numerous candidates for commissioner.
The EU executive, which has the solitary right to propose European laws and is the guardian of the bloc’s treaty, is made up of one commissioner per member state, chosen by his or her government for the next five years.
Estonia, which depends on fossil fuels, including high-polluting oil shale, for over three quarters of its power production, was one of four EU states declining to back the 2050 targets at an EU summit earlier this year.
It is home to the two major oil shale-fueled power plants in the world – making the tiny state the EU’s most carbon intensive economy in the bloc – as it has sought to disrupt reliance on energy imports from Russia.
That has made the selection of the Estonian as energy commissioner the aim of criticism from climate campaigners.