By Dave Keating ,
Neno Dimov, the man who took over as the president of the EU’s Environment Council on January 1st, got an earful yesterday when he appeared before members of the European Parliament. Some of his past words were coming back to haunt him.
Lawmakers were aghast that a man who once called climate change a fraud and described himself as an opponent of climate science is going to be coordinating the EU’s environment policy for the next six months.
“You personally have been questioning climate change and whether human activity is the cause, you even challenged the theory of sea level rise,” Dutch Liberal MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy said to him. Other MEPs demanded he clarify his personal stance.
Dimov demurred. He would not say anything about his personal opinion on climate change, only noting that there is a “political consensus” within the EU on climate change, and he will “keep this consensus alive”. However, he said, there is always room for “challenges and doubts”. A vocal admirer of US President Donald Trump, Dimov has in the past said global warming is being used as a tool of intimidation.
So how did the EU end up with a climate-skeptic environment chief?
The European Union, always keen to avoid the impression of being centralized around Brussels, has a variety of traditions meant to diffuse power throughout the bloc.
One of these is the “rotating presidency”. Every six months, one of the EU’s 28 member countries takes charge of the Council of the EU – the bloc’s upper chamber made up of ministers from each of the national governments. Each of the Council’s policy configurations, for instance the Agriculture Council made up of the 28 different agriculture ministers, is chaired by the presidency country.
As Bulgaria’s environment minister, Dimov will chair the Environment Council until the end of July. This means he will set the agenda and conduct negotiations with the European Parliament on behalf of all the member states. The Council does not propose legislation – that task falls to the Commission, the EU’s executive branch, and its environment commissioner Karmenu Vella. But Dimov will still have the power to steer important pieces of legislation over the coming months.