Media reaction: 14 September 2022

ClientEarth reaction to Von Der Leyen State of the Union speech

The president of the Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen just delivered her State of the Union address to the European Parliament.

Reacting to the speech, ClientEarth Head of EU Affairs Anaïs Berthier said:

“The Commission president focused much of her speech on the energy crisis – rightly, given its intense impact on people’s lives at the moment. She said we need to end our dependency on Russian gas and fossil fuels in general, remarking that we should have moved away from oil back in the 1970s.

“We support this – it's high time the admission was made. Our long addiction to fossil fuels has pushed us on the edge. Climate change is now catastrophic as the past summer of intense drought and fires across Europe shows – it is a glimpse into disasters much of the rest of the world knows well. Climate change is now affecting food and water supply here in Europe as experts knew it would – and our window of opportunity to avert worsening catastrophe is minute.

“The EU therefore needs to be consistent in all its policies. It must, for example, stop channelling money to fossil gas, by removing it from its list of sustainable investments.

“As a proposed solution to the crisis, Ursula Von der Leyen insisted on hydrogen, announcing the creation of a European Bank for hydrogen. We need more clarity on this project and remain cautious about channelling EU funds towards hydrogen – it should play only a very limited role in decarbonisation.

“We strongly support the focus on reducing our demand in gas and electricity as a response to high energy prices. We must improve our energy efficiency and use smart solutions to manage what we consume, while investing in wind and solar energies in zones where their impact on wildlife is limited.

“We are disappointed that nature protection was hardly mentioned throughout the speech – there was just one mention that the EU had ambitions for the upcoming Convention on Biodiversity. We will be watching EU officials – the fight against climate change does not exist without protection and restoration of nature across the world.

“Finally, protecting the global environment means we need ensure that our external policies are consistent with the standards that we set at EU level. Von der Leyen mentioned the upcoming signature of many trade agreements with third countries - the Commission must make sure sustainability is at their core. We cannot possibly import products which contribute to the destruction of the environment while we’re stepping up efforts to reduce our environmental impact within Europe. This is counterproductive.”


About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.