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Shell’s Alumni Gathering: Wopke Hoekstra’s Twisted Journey from Oil Fields to EU’s Climate Command

Posted by John Donovan:

5 October 2023

BRUSSELS -The land of waffles, chocolate, and now… turning former oilmen into climate saviour’s.

European lawmakers decided to test Mr. Wopke Hoekstra’s climate sincerity, given his impressive CV flaunting a young, budding career at everyone’s eco-hero, Shell. Yet after whispering a few extra sweet nothings about stronger green measures, the green light shone on him on Wednesday.

At a spry 48, Hoekstra is gearing up to shape EU’s battle strategies against climate change. Who better to lead this vital mission in the world’s third-largest economy than someone intimately familiar with the internal workings of, ahem, Big Oil?

His ascendancy couldn’t be timelier, what with Mother Nature playing up with her seasonal mood swings of floods, fires, and droughts. Plus, Europe’s climate zeal is getting a tad lukewarm amidst soaring living costs and a green tech rivalry with China and the US.

Adding a bit of flavor to Hoekstra’s tenure are divisions among the EU-27. Luckily for us, he’s from the ever-so-forward-thinking European People’s Party, known for their cautious affection towards some green policies. But fear not, he’ll need to woo the eco-conscious Green and left-leaning crowd too.

While the EU is already a poster child for emission-slashing, Hoekstra, the temporary climate shepherd till the June EU Parliament elections, has dreams aplenty. Among them? A bold call to cut net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 90% by 2040. Ambitious or just plain dreamy? Industries are scratching their heads.

In an impassioned monologue during his EU Parliament audition, he declared, “I will not be a caretaker. It simply wouldn’t do justice to the scale, to the magnitude of our challenge.” Touché, Mr Hoekstra. “I will be driven by facts, by numbers, by science,” he promised, presumably not by past employer affiliations.

Daringly, he’s also eyeing a complete fossil fuel phase-out at the upcoming COP28 summit, which might just make for some awkward reunions with his old oil buddies.

Oh, let’s stroll down memory lane: A bright-eyed Hoekstra kicking off at Shell, then sauntering over to consultancy McKinsey (but totally not schmoozing with oil bigwigs). His stance? Firms ignoring their climate harm are “truly unethical.” Specific names? Not today.

Hoekstra’s rollicking journey includes a senatorial stint, a splash as finance minister, overseeing an airline bailout, and then a touch of foreign ministering. Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout aptly noted during the hearing, “Looking at your CV until now, you’ve not really been a climate champion.” Talk about understatement.

With a full EU Parliament vote looming, insiders whisper that Hoekstra’s poised for a win, courtesy of his committee’s nod. Peter Liese, a German EPP lawmaker, offered his two cents: “Mr Hoekstra has the qualification most needed right now – diplomacy.”

Indeed. Because if there’s one thing climate change needs, it’s someone who can talk about it, preferably without past oil-stained ties. But hey, everyone loves a redemption story, right?

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