Entering the climate long game: Words from European Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra

European Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra speaking at Maastricht University on 21 May 2024. Photo: Jean-Pierre Geusens / Studio Europa Maastricht

Last month, Maastricht University welcomed the European Commissioner for Climate Action, Wopke Hoekstra, for a public speech followed by a Q&A session (in an event organized by Studio Europa Maastricht in collaboration with the Centre for European Research in Maastricht, the Sustainable UM 2030 programme, and Maastricht University’s Faculties of Law and Arts and Social Sciences).

The event was a resounding success, with a great number of students from around the university – including those studying our MSc in Public Policy and Human Development programme here at UNU-MERIT – joining to hear Hoekstra’s vision on the future of the European Union and engaging with him in an animated Q&A session afterwards.

Appointed European Commissioner in October 2023, Hoekstra previously held the roles of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Netherlands. Given his wide-ranging experience, his speech at this event covered a variety of critical topics, such as geopolitics, climate policy, innovation, migration and sustainable economic growth. Speaking on climate action, he stated: “Europe will be entering the climate long game to remain a leader in that game.”

In this brief interview with UNU-MERIT, Commissioner Hoekstra expanded on some of his thoughts about the complexities and future challenges facing the EU, particularly in regards to climate action.


How are the EU and the UN cooperating in terms of climate action?

The UN and the European Union are working together very closely, and the reason is also very simple. In Europe, we emit roughly 7% of all global emissions, and that means that 93% of all emissions take place somewhere else. Given that climate change is indiscriminate, we don’t just get there by solving the 7% – which we will – we also need to make sure we touch upon the 93%. This truly is a global effort.

What role do education and research play in the European Commission’s efforts to fight climate change?

They play a pivotal role, and what they do is actually guide the way and show us what is needed by when. Let’s be honest, they have been critical about our speed. The direction of travel is the right one; we do need to speed up, and that is what they’re telling us, and that is what we are following up on.

What are some of the key policies that aim to help the EU become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050?

What we’re doing is making sure that all 27 member states contribute and that all industries and all parts of our society contribute. So it truly is a team effort, and at the very heart of that effort is our emissions trading system. That is, if you will, both the workhorse and the crown jewel of our climate policies.

The full transcipt of Commissioner Hoekstra’s speech (delivered on 21 May 2024) is available here on the Studio Europa Maastricht website.



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    Photo by Jean-Pierre Geusens / Studio Europa Maastricht