Frans Timmermans, the European Union’s climate chief, will leave his post in Brussels to become a candidate in the next elections in the Netherlands, the European Commission announced on Tuesday.
Mr Timmermans’ immediate departure comes as the European Union focuses on meeting climate targets, reducing emissions on the continent as well as transitioning to clean energy.
Mr. Timmermans served as Executive Vice President of the European Green Deala set of proposals to make EU climate, energy, transport and taxation policies capable of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
Last month, European lawmakers endorsed a key element of the Green Deal this would require member countries to restore 20% of natural areas within their borders on land and sea.
“Climate change is happening even faster than expected, hitting our planet with no region spared,” Mr Timmermans said. said in a speech in July. “Radical, immediate and transformative action must be taken by all of us.”
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, praised Mr Timmermans in a statement, saying he had helped make progress towards “achieving the EU’s goals of becoming the first climate-friendly continent neutral”. She also said he had helped raise “climate ambition levels globally”.
Ms von der Leyen has appointed Maroš Šefčovič, Member of the European Commission from Slovakia, to succeed Mr Timmermans as Executive Vice-President of the European Green Deal. Ms von der Leyen has also temporarily handed responsibility for climate action policy to Mr Šefčovič, until a new member of the commission with Dutch nationality is appointed, according to a statement.
On Tuesday, Mr Timmermans emerged as the leading candidate for a left-wing alliance of the Green Party and the Labor Party, which form a bloc in Dutch parliamentary elections scheduled for November 22. In this role, Mr. Timmermans could eventually become Dutch Prime Minister. Members of both parties overwhelmingly chose Mr Timmermans as their lead candidate on Tuesday, according to Dutch media.
Mr Timmermans was due to address members of left-leaning parties on Tuesday evening as leader for the first time, according to the parties.
“He’s the right person to tackle the big challenges we represent: protecting social security, tackling the climate crisis and restoring trust in politics,” said Attje Kuiken, leader of the Dutch Labor Party in the House of Representatives. . wrote on X, formerly Twitter. Ms Kuiken has, like many other politicians since the fall of the government last month, announced her departure from Dutch politics.
This is not Mr Timmermans’ first foray into Dutch politics. He was a member of the Dutch Labor Party, as well as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2012 to 2014.
The Green Deal has angered farmers across the continent, including Mr Timmermans’ native Netherlands. Last year, Dutch farmers protested against new targets and the announcement that some of them would have to close their farms to meet EU climate targets, saying they felt disproportionately targeted.
The Dutch government collapsed in July after parties in its ruling coalition failed to reach an agreement on migration policy. Other issues had added stress to the fractured coalition, including climate targets that aim to drastically reduce nitrogen emissions in the country, targets that were partially set by the European Union.
The Netherlands will soon have its first new prime minister since 2010, when Mark Rutte came to power. Mr Rutte has decided not to run again and has said he will quit politics once a new coalition is in place after the November elections.
At Mr. Rutte’s departure from Dutch politics raised questions for the Netherlands, as well as for the European Union, where Mr Rutte found a stage to advance his country’s agenda: rules-based free trade and trade, fiscal prudence, values liberal socials.
Who will take Mr Rutte’s place as prime minister uncertain. The Peasant Citizen Movement, a Dutch pro-agricultural party which swept the local elections in March, has been leading in the polls, an indication of people’s dissatisfaction with the main political parties.
On Sunday, Pieter Omtzigt, a popular Dutch politician who has criticized Mr Rutte, announced the creation of his new party, New Social Contract. A Dutch poll from this summer predicted Mr Omtzigt’s party could win up to 46 seats in the 150-member Dutch House of Representatives.