EU Climate Chief Timmermans Resigns in Bid to Be Dutch Prime Minister

European Union climate chief Frans Timmermans will step aside from his role as he leads the Dutch left alliance ahead of elections in November.

(Bloomberg) — European Union climate chief Frans Timmermans will step aside from his role as he leads the Dutch left alliance ahead of elections in November.

Timmermans, 62, will leave his position as the EU’s climate chief after he was named as the leader of the Dutch Green Left and Labor parties on Tuesday, according to a statement from the European Commission. Vice president Maros Sefcovic will take over Timmerman’s Green Deal duties, the statement added.

The Dutch elections are scheduled for Nov. 22 after the collapse of Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s fourth coalition government due to infighting over the migrant crisis.

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Timmermans’s departure from the climate role will arguably be most keenly felt on the international stage. The EU is set to push for more global commitments to cut emissions when the United Nations’ 28th Conference of the Parties starts in Dubai in November — an objective that’s even more pertinent for the bloc after wildfires battered parts of the continent this summer.

Domestically, the EU has passed into law the vast bulk of its green deal legislation designed to slash emissions by 55% by the end of the decade. That ranges from phasing out car combustion engines to a carbon market overhaul. Elections in the bloc are also scheduled for June, providing Timmermans with the window to return to domestic politics. He’s a former foreign minister of the Netherlands.

In recent months, Timmermans has faced fierce criticism from politicians skeptical over the speed and cost of the EU’s climate transition — but has consistently argued the cost of not doing so would be far higher. Much of that has come from the European People’s Party, the largest group in parliament and home of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Vice President Sefcovic was the EU’s chief negotiator for securing post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland, a deal on which was signed off in March. He was also put in charge of setting up the EU’s joint gas purchase platform to stop companies from outbidding each other for scarce energy supplies as the bloc prepares winter.

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In July, the Dutch Green Left and Labor parties parties decided to combine their campaigns under a single candidate to succeed Rutte. 

Timmermans will be up against Justice Minister Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius, who now leads the center right VVD party after Rutte announced he would retire from politics. The other potential candidate for the role of prime minister includes Caroline van der Plas, the leader of the populist Farmer-Citizen Movement. 

Popular lawmaker Pieter Omtzigt has launched his own political party, but ruled out running for the premiership.

–With assistance from Sarah Jacob and April Roach.

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