Nature and climate at a crossroads - EU leaders to decide on EU top jobs and the Strategic Agenda

Posted on June, 24 2024

What is happening?

On 27-28 June, European leaders will convene to decide on the EU ‘top jobs’ and adopt the European Council’s Strategic Agenda, outlining their political priorities for the next term. This adoption will serve as input for the future Commission President when developing  corresponding Commission policy priorities.

Among “top jobs”, the most crucial role is the European Commission President. The future President will have the responsibility to continue the European Green Deal, uphold the rule of law, and ensure that all climate and environmental laws are properly implemented and enforced by Member Stateswithout weakening existing rules.

The Strategic Agenda will hint to the level of importance assigned to climate and environmental issues by the new political leadership. In 2019, EU leaders prioritised these issues, leading to von der Leyen proposing the European Green Deal. Recent leaks of the 2024 Strategic Agenda indicate a different approach compared to 2019. There are fewer priorities and less detail, showing the growing divisions among Member States.


Which outcomes could benefit climate and nature?

  • On the European Commission’s Presidency

The ideal candidate should have a strong track record of successful leadership on the green transition and the ability to bring stability while keeping Europe on course with the European Green Deal, rather than dismantling environmental legislation.


According to media reports, Ursula von der Leyen is likely to be given a second term as Commission President. Ester Asin, Director of WWF European Policy Office, said, "If EU leaders choose Ursula von der Leyen for a second term, she must reaffirm her commitment to the European Green Deal. She showed vision and leadership by presenting this transformative agenda. But her actions in the months ahead of the elections have cast doubts over her commitment to her own agenda.” In the past year, Ursula von der Leyen scrapped environmental rules to please the agro-industry and meekly defended the Green Deal during her campaign as EPP Lead Candidate. “It would be unprecedented for a Commission President to abandon their flagship priority from one term to the next. Climate change and nature loss are already here, and the effects are felt every day. We simply cannot afford to hit 'pause' on the green transition," concludes Asin.

  • On the content of the Strategic Agenda

An April leak suggested support for climate action but overlooked the critical importance of nature and biodiversity. This oversight is concerning, as healthy ecosystems are essential for enhancing resilience to climate-related disasters such as floods, drought and wildfires, as well as for effectively combating climate change. The leaked document also suggested that climate action might be lower on the priority list.

To protect Europeans against the climate and biodiversity crises, the Strategic Agenda should:

  • Clearly commit to a green and just transition as a sustained priority. This means not only implementing the Green Deal, but also addressing its gaps and shortcomings.
  • Recognise the importance of nature and nature restoration, which was absent in the leak from April. More than 50% of the world’s GDP is highly or moderately dependent on nature. [1]
  • Plan for a better use of public and private finance for the green transition by reallocating harmful spending and increasing public investment. Additional investments are needed to meet the objectives of the Green Deal. While significant, these costs are substantially lower than the costs of inaction.
  • Provide a long-term vision for sustainable food systems that prioritises climate resilience for farmers and addresses the entire supply chain, as opposed to deregulating the agricultural sector. 
  • Step up the implementation and enforcement of existing rules while resisting misguided calls to reopen democratically made agreements. Reducing bureaucracy must not compromise environmental, social, and health standards.

“Unfortunately, several Member State leaders have recently started to distance themselves from the green transition. But, their discussions about competitiveness and security will be in vain if they fail to address the escalating impacts of climate change and nature loss. The reality is that the livelihoods of Europeans and the future of our businesses depend on a healthy environment. Europe's competitiveness hinges on the EU promoting green technologies and practices, not on deregulation,” said Tycho Vandermaesen, Policy & Strategy Director of WWF European Policy Office.



[1] World Economic Forum. (2020). New nature economy report 2020