Press release

Freshly re-appointed von der Leyen must boost action to protect Europeans from the threat of ecological collapse – ClientEarth

28 June 2024

ClientEarth has urged the newly named President of the European Commission to step up action against climate change, toxic pollution and biodiversity loss by putting people and the environment at the heart of all EU decisions.

Today, EU Heads of States and governments have endorsed Ursula von der Leyen for a second term as the President of the European Commission, subject to confirmation by the European Parliament. They also adopted the EU strategic agenda, which sees a shift in priorities over the next five years towards greater security and competitiveness for EU industry – while acknowledging the need to tackle the triple crisis.

But ClientEarth has warned that strengthening competitiveness and tackling ‘excessive bureaucracy’ should not be used as an excuse to slow down the green transition.

Head of ClientEarth's Brussels Office Anaïs Berthier said:

“The geopolitical tensions we face in Europe have clearly influenced the EU Council’s new priorities – but EU leaders must not forget that tackling climate change, biodiversity loss, and toxic pollution are key to ensuring the security of all Europeans.

“If immediate action is not taken, these crises will further erode the EU's economy and diminish its global competitiveness. They will also compromise our energy independence, exacerbate public health issues, and trigger unprecedented waves of forced migration.

“The only ‘pragmatic’ approach is to boost the green transition, as the economic consequences of inaction are far greater than the costs associated with taking proactive measures. The ‘European Green Deal’ was a good start, but it is now time to implement it, enforce it and build upon it. For the EU's security, its prosperity, and for future generations, EU leaders must integrate environmental and social considerations into every decision.

“As Heads of States and governments have now committed to 'a just and fair transition', we need the Commission to make sure it's fully embedded in the mission of a Vice-President for People and the Environment that we are calling on von der Leyen to appoint.”

In a fictional letter from the new President of the European Commission, ClientEarth has outlined the role and responsibilities of the proposed EU Vice-President for People and the Environment. These include:

  • Ensuring consistent environmental and social integration across the definition and implementation of all EU policies and legislations.
  • Strengthening governance and upholding the rule of law at EU level and throughout all processes within the European Commission to ensure decisions are facts and science based.
  • Addressing the gaps left from the EU Green Deal on regenerative food systems, chemicals and pesticides whilst achieving a more sustainable use of our land and ocean.
  • Aligning the economic system with environmental imperatives.
  • Carrying out the reform of an energy system fit for sustainable and resilient resource use.
  • Improving environmental justice as well as implementation and enforcement of EU laws.


Notes to editors:
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.