Copenhagen Climate Conference

The following article has been sent to Blogactiv by Jo Leinen MEP, Chairman of the Committee on the Environment in the European Parliament.

At present, the world faces two major global crises: The first one is the financial and economic crisis, which has strongly influenced policy-makers and governments in their work over the last one and a half years. The second is the climate crisis, which has received far less attention in the last couple of months. But as recent studies show, the last one will cost us much more than the first one, if we do not act in time.

In December 2009, the world will meet in Copenhagen in order to find a new international agreement on how to protect our planet from an irreversible warming and its consequences. The European Union has taken a leading role in order to reduce emissions and has agreed on a package of legislative measures in December 2008 as a first step towards a low-carbon economy. The European Parliament as co-legislator in environmental policies has played a very active and critical role, as Member States realized that the fight against global warming cannot be dealt with on the national level alone, but relies on a robust framework at European level. But as we all know, Europe’s efforts alone will not present a solution to the problem alone. That’s why we need an international agreement to fight climate change together with our partners from the US, China, India, and from other regions of the world.

The process towards achieving an ambitious international agreement has slowed down in the last couple of months. On the one side, the financial crisis has delayed or stopped many promising programs for effective climate protection in developed as well as in developing countries. On the other side, the EU and other industrialized countries have so far not been offering the needed assistance for climate protection in developing countries, which go beyond fulfilling their internal reduction commitments by using flexible mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol. Therefore, the coming months will be important for formulating offers towards our partners in developing countries. How can we assist them in reducing emissions and in adapting to a changing environment? How much are we willing to offer for their readiness not to follow our fossil development path?

Again, the European Union should take the first step and move on towards a unilateral financing commitment. The European Commission has presented a paper with ideas on this issue, but we have to go much further than that.

As a first step, we should look at our climate instruments and use the resources we generate from them. The most important instrument is the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS). Every year, member states receive revenues from auctioning certificates. The more certificates we auction and do not give away for free, the more revenues we will generate. If we do not use these resources for environmental purposes, the idea of internalizing external costs gets lost. Therefore, the revenues should be used for financing climate measures. Inside Europe as well as on the international level; so far, revenues end up in member states’ budgets.

Second, we have to change the structure of the existing EU budget. Climate policy is a European topic and should be financed according to European budget decisions. Therefore the next budget review has to focus on climate protection and adaptation. This would enable us to develop a clear strategy on which programs have to be financed and it would give us the opportunity to use resources more effective than before. The European Parliament will strongly advocate this change.

There is no chance to step back from our responsibility for the process of global warming. Financing mitigation and adaptation measures in developing countries is one part of it. If we want to stop climate change, we have to take the others with us and this again requires incentives and assistance. There is no time to play finance poker in climate policy, because the risk of loosing the game is just too high.

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