Copenhagen Climate Conference

This post has been written for Blogactiv by Monica Frassoni, Spokesperson for the European Green Party.

It was 2001, and among the 15 government representatives of the EU governments there were 5 green ministers; the Environment Commissioner was Margot Wallstrom, a Swedish and quite motivated lady. We were fully in the Bush era and Kyoto was in bad shape. But the Belgian government held the Presidency and Olivier Deleuze, the musician turned energy minister; was able, with Wallstrom, to find an agreement in the COP in Marrakesh that opened the way to the ratification of the Treaty of Kyoto despite the USA opposition. That was a turning point for the European leadership on climate issues. It was clear that Europe was leading and that the global agreement on emission reduction had a chance even without the US. Without the determination of the Europeans, the fight against climate change would have chosen a different way (if any) than binding global treaties.

Today is the situation the same? In 2001, the EU was composed of 15 member states and there were 13 center-left governments. The EU getting ready to go to Copenhagen in 2009 is composed by 27 member states, mostly governed by right-wing governments. Governments in general not particularly keen to promote the ecological conversion of our social and economic system, but simply forced by reality to act: governments which do understand that Copenhagen can’t fail, but which are not really ready to move in absence of cash by the Americans and a clear commitment by the BRICs ( China, India, Brazil…).

Most of the 12 “new” member governments are eco-indifferent and above all are convinced that the radical reduction of their emissions due to the de-industrialization of the early ’90s frees them from the obligation to contribute to finance the agreement expected in Copenhagen: a yearly contribution from the developed world that should reach at least 100 billions in 2020. On the other hand, Italy is playing a negative role (the Italian parliament voted a few months ago for a resolution stating that climate change does not exist); Germany is not anymore the driving force for a breakthrough as it was in 2007. And we should not forget that the much celebrated “energy package” (the 4 directives putting in practice the 20-20-20 EU commitments to reduce emissions, increase efficiency and get ready for Copenhagen adopted by the EU at the end of 2008) is full of ambiguities and loopholes which will make a smooth implementation difficult; from the exemptions and derogations for industry, to free auctions, to the millions of euro given to doubtful techniques like the CCS, to the non binding targets for energy efficiency or the excessive push for agro-fuels. So the spirit of Marrakesh is far away.

Today EU is simply not strong enough to push the world towards an ambitious agreement. This is another face of the electoral victory of the right-wing forces in June and of the heavy organizational and even cultural defeat of the left, with the partial exception of the Greens in some countries. The social-democratic parties – too little innovative, too little European, too timid on environment- let the right wing governments play the climate game without being able to put forward proposals which allow public opinion to see their added value in comparison with the most allegedly “green” conservative leaders, like Merkel or Sarkozy; of course Greens, many NGO, civil society groups and even a part of the industry are all up and running. Still, we are not enough either to put Europe at the vanguard of the climate fight as in 2001. If Copenhagen will be a success it will certainly be because of the EU, but also thanks to Obama and to the willingness of the Bric to enter the climate game. Perhaps it is better like this: to be the best and lonely does not serve the purpose of a global deal. But in this situation, what we can expect in Copenhagen is perhaps just a step forward and not a new Treaty.

What seems likely at this stage is a general agreement on emissions reduction (25%.40% as indicated by IPCC) and a modest financial engagement; both aspects to be fine-tuned in the next steps of a long negotiations still ahead of us. Negotiations in which the EU will be just one player among others…

For more information about Monica Frassoni, please click here.

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