December Copenhagen climate conference: who bets on an agreement being reached?

Article published on March 26, 2009
Article published on March 26, 2009

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Faced with an American “green team” who present themselves as the epitomy of efficiency in regards to all things green, the experts are asking themselves. Will Europe head the fight against global warming this year?

(Image: ©Les Verts)During the last conference in Poznan at the end of 2008, delegates failed to get to the bottom of certain aspects of the international climate change agreement currently in preparation. This assessment was made by the parties involved at the French institute for international relations (IFRI-Brussels) on 21 January during their 'Poznan and the road to Copenhagen' meeting. The fact that the Danish representative Pauline Nielson, minister for climate and energy, has a proposal for the next set of negotiations, represents nonetheless an improvement compared with previous international climate summits. 'Not enough,' retorts Richard Bradley of the international energy agency, who is most worried about the commitment of the United States and China alongside the EU.

Obama: last minute ally?

In January, president Barack Obama reiterated his desire to invest in green energy and install a national emission cap. However, in a country where in the list of priorities, the climate trails the economic crisis, Iraq and reform of the health care system in fourth, his comments would appear to address interior policy more than international. Aware that Obama will probably first have to convince the congress to step onto the international ladder, Stavros Dimas, European environment commissioner, sent an open letter to the president on 27 January to encourage him to continue with his efforts. In light of the lessons learned at Poznan, all the parties involved are unanimous in that the EU must redouble its efforts to sell the 'green salad' in 2009.

Root of all evil

According to Pierre Deschamps, energy and climate change advisor for the European commission, the climate proposal is too ambitious until an emissions trading system is likely to come into place. This system would also need to serve as a base for a transatlantic emissions trade-off system. This proposal, nonetheless, continues to bear the same stigma of dissent as it did upon its creation. While eastern countries have chosen carbon, France and England have chosen nuclear energy development, despite criticism from Germany. The carbon bill of these states will therefore vary largely depending on their choice of energy mix. The absence of European energy policy is what casts the darkest cloud over the EU's upcoming climate change meet.

Responsible for, yet not constrained by the non-existent international agreements on the matter, these same states struggle to agree on European objectives with regards to energy and green technology. Yet it is these issues which are likely to grab the interest of in the EU partners and investors.

EU, foot down

In spite of this the EU would not consider stepping down as leader. The commission has therefore released a statement on the position of the EU at Copenhagen. Already criticised, this statement notably back tracks over the financing of the reduction of emissions and the setting up of global emissions trading, a matter which is proving to be a stumbling block in negotiations. The EU has sent more clear messages in announcing a plan to relaunch a greener Europe, in addition to the European central bank desiring greener European energy. It would appear that there’s no alternative for the EU than to take a u-turn on its energy innovation policy, or face up to the fact that the war on climate change and the economic crisis will not be won in the near future.