Youth climate activists led by Greta Thunberg accused EU Green Deal chief Frans Timmermans of lacking the courage to align the bloc’s massive farm subsidies scheme with his own flagship climate goals.
After a virtual meeting with him earlier Tuesday, the 18-year-old Thunberg and three fellow campaigners said they told Timmermans he should withdraw the Commission’s proposal for the next seven-year Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) if he cannot guarantee it will match the climate ambitions of the Green Deal and the Paris climate accord.
Thunberg told POLITICO: “I’m sure that he does everything he can, but we really need to be realistic and say that the time for small steps in the right direction is long gone and we cannot look away from the science anymore,” adding that the conversation was “just like we expected it to be.”
“We urged them to listen to the science and say once again that according to the overall science it’s becoming more and more crystal clear, it’s undeniable that this is not in line with the Paris agreement, it’s not in line with the 1.5 degree target.”
Timmermans had last year said he could still withdraw the CAP reform proposal if its environmental ambition is drained by the other EU institutions — whose positions have been criticized by environmentalists as favoring farmers over green measures. But he has not taken steps to do so since then.
Belgian activist Adélaïde Charlier, who was also on the video call, said Timmermans made clear he planned to allow the inter-institutional negotiations on the future CAP to keep running, and that it would “not be democratic” to decide Commission policy completely on his own, for example by revoking the legislative proposal for the next farm policy and putting forward a new one.
“It’s very clear what we have asked [for], and it’s something that he has in his hands, but it’s something that he clearly doesn’t have the courage right now to do,” Charlier said.
MEPs and EU governments are hoping to reach an agreement on the CAP reform this spring. The policy is worth some €348 billion and will kick off in 2023 after a two-year transition period, despite criticism from environmental NGOs that the other EU institutions will end up watering down the binding environmental aspects of the Commission’s blueprint.
Luisa Neubauer, a German activist who also joined the meeting, accused Timmermans of saying one thing while doing another. “He’s openly criticizing the CAP in the media and still going ahead with this, and this is not what it looks like when you treat a crisis like a crisis.”
Charlier added: “The CAP that he’s negotiating is not aligned to the policy that he puts at the center of his own Commission.”
Thunberg said Timmermans had offered to meet her group again and had also promised a separate meeting with the “Withdraw the CAP” campaign, which she said she did not officially represent.
Timmermans said in a tweet after talking to the activists that “The Commission remains committed to making the CAP fulfill the objectives” of the Green Deal. “While not easy, it’s still possible.”