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Von der Leyen stresses climate agenda

November 27, 2019

Ursula von der Leyen has vowed to stick by her ambitious climate goals, including making Europe carbon neutral by 2050. She also downplayed worries about a deteriorating relationship with the US.

Ursula von der Leyen
Image: DW/B. Riegert

Von der Leyen outlines ambitious agenda

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was keen to stress the European Green Deal and her hopes to make Europe carbon neutral by 2050 in a DW interview on Wednesday.

"I think you have to be ambitious…and the fight against climate change cannot wait. I mean it's not waiting for politics to move. Either we change in a positive way or it's going be very bad for our planet and then bad for us," the former German defense minister told DW.

Von der Leyen said she had no trouble setting high goals for her administration because, "I think it's worth [setting] ambitious goals because in my experience, many many years in politics, is that the more ambitious your goals are the more you fight for getting [them done]."

The European Green Deal is a policy crafted by von der Leyen herself, which also includes proposals to increase carbon taxes, invest more heavily in sustainable business, reduce pollution, and increase protection for Europe's wilderness, national parks, and green spaces.

Von der Leyen concerned about Beijing, but not Washington

The new commission president, who was offcially confirmed today after an unusually protracted vetting process, was also asked about the EU's two biggest trading partners – the US and China.

As for Washington, despite US President Donald Trump's combative attitude towards Europe, von der Leyen said she still saw the US as partners. "We have a strong foundation [built] over decades …of course we do have issues. But, as with good partners, you have to discuss these issues and solve them."

With regards to China, von der Leyen said she feared Beijing was moving in a direction that would make it more difficult to find common ground. She criticized the government's "social scoring" system that can make it harder to find work or a place to live, and the "questions" posed over China's Belt and Road iniative, in which it pays for massive infrastructure projects in developing countries, leaving these nations indebted to Beijing.

Von der Leyen's new team of ministers was also confirmedon Wednesday, and she has pegged Dutch Green politician Frans Timmermans to lead her Green Deal program.

The German lawmaker will officially take over from her predecessor Jean-Claude Juncker on Sunday.