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Von der Leyen backed by MEPs, must now fulfil promise of European Green Deal

17 July 2019
by WWF -- last modified 17 July 2019

The European Parliament today confirmed Ursula von der Leyen as Commission President-elect with a narrow majority of 383 MEPs.


Since her nomination just two weeks ago, the Commission President-elect rallied enough support for her agenda of six priorities, the first of which centers around a European Green Deal which she committed to  present within the first 100 days of her presidency. This proposed deal focusses not only on the much needed increase in climate ambition and a just transition to a climate neutral Europe, but also promises to curtail biodiversity loss within the next five years and present a Biodiversity Strategy for 2030.

"Considering how little time Ursula von der Leyen had to develop her programme, this first outline gives hope for a sustainable future for Europe. We welcome her stated ambition to tackle climate change more seriously and introduce a European Green Deal. Despite this, her proposals remain insufficient to stay below 1.5°C global warming as set out by the Paris Agreement. Further, our planet is facing a dual crisis, which also includes biodiversity decline. If von der Leyen is committed to her proposed deal, reversing nature loss should enshrined into EU law," said Ester Asin, Director of the WWF European Policy Office.

"This narrow vote on her position demonstrates that von der Leyen still has some way to go to gain the trust of a broader majority of progressive MEPs and the voters they represent. We invite her to engage with civil society as she prepares the mission letters of her College of Commissioners, and to focus on putting in place a Commission structure which creates the enabling conditions for putting Europe on a truly sustainable path."

Despite promises from nearly all Spitzenkandidaten during the election campaign, von der Leyen did not commit to putting in place an overarching EU strategy for implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals - a strategy which will be needed to add coherence to her commitments to make the EU a leader on biodiversity and climate action. She has also not yet addressed the elephant in the room, namely the impacts of the EU's agricultural policy and other environmentally harmful subsidies (such as for fossil fuels) on biodiversity loss and climate change.

WWF calls for the President-elect to appoint Vice-Presidents for Climate Transition and Natural Resources who have the vision and powers to ensure that all EU policies are consistent with the objectives of halting the loss of nature by 2030 and achieving climate neutrality by 2040.

The European Policy Office helps shape EU policies that impact on the European and global environment.