Former Dutch foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra sought to convince European lawmakers Monday to back his bid for a top EU climate post by making ambitious commitments, in the face of criticism over his past ties to the oil industry. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has proposed the conservative politician, 48, take on the climate portfolio after his compatriot Frans Timmermans returned to domestic Dutch politics. Timmermans had been a powerful executive vice president on the commission, in charge of overseeing the ambitious climate pact known as the European Green Deal. That job has passed to Slovakia’s commissioner Maros Sefcovic and Brussels now wants Hoesktra to serve under him as the official in charge of “climate action”. But Hoekstra has not faced a smooth ride during the confirmation process, given his past working for energy giant Shell and hawkish economic stance when he was Dutch finance minister. “We believe Mr Hoekstra is not the right person for this crucial position,” 50 climate action groups wrote last month. “Not only does he lack expertise and experience in dealing with climate change issues, he also has a history of aligning very closely with fossil fuel interests.” He faced questioning by the European Parliament’s environmental committee on Monday evening, ahead of a vote by the full plenary on his candidacy. Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout told Hoekstra that “looking at your CV until now, you’ve not really been a climate champion” as he sought “concrete promises” from him. Hoekstra defended his ministerial record, pointing to his launch of green bonds, and vowed “continuity” in the EU’s action on climate issues. “In my own portfolio, I aim to swiftly conclude all pending negotiations,” he said in his opening remarks, and vowed to prepare work for a “Green Deal 2.0”. If approved by MEPs and EU country leaders, Hoekstra would serve until at least May next year, when a new commission will be formed after the European Parliament elections. Despite the short tenure, that would still see Hoekstra spearhead the EU’s delegation at the crucial COP 28 climate talks starting in the United Arab Emirates at the end of next month. ‘Biggest absurdity’: Hoekstra also criticised state subsidies for fossil fuels during Monday’s hearing and lambasted oil giants’ record on climate change. “The fact that certain oil majors have long known of their role in climate change, and sought to hide the evidence… I find it truly unethical. If anything, it increases their responsibility to contribute to solving climate change,” he said. He added “the biggest absurdity of all (is) the lack of taxation on aviation fuel” and told the committee he wanted “to explore an international kerosene tax, a maritime levy, a fossil fuels tax”. He also said he wanted to make sure the EU committed to cutting net greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent by 2040. After the hearing ended late Monday, the head of the committee, Pascal Canfin, said the coordinators’ final decision would be “suspended” until Tuesday afternoon. After graduating from university around 20 years ago, Hoekstra worked for Shell for two years before moving on to global consultancy giant McKinsey. He was appointed as finance minister to serve in Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s third coalition government in 2017 before becoming foreign minister in 2022. When his name was announced, a petition against his transfer to Brussels quickly garnered tens of thousands of signatures criticising the appointment of a “fossil fuel manager”, given his Shell background. Green groups have pointed to his record in office after he opposed ending exploitation of a major gas field, blocked measures to reduce nitrogen emissions and propped up airline KLM.