Climate and energy policy: Europe must keep a leading role

Copenhagen not “infinitely better” than Kyoto

In France, the cli­mate con­fer­ence in Copen­hagen was most­ly con­sid­ered a dis­ap­point­ment, even a fail­ure. Envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion has become a par­tic­u­lar con­sen­su­al top­ic, not only for politi­cians, but also in the media. Thus, the flop of the con­fer­ence con­trasts with the inten­si­ty and the dra­matur­gy of its media cov­er­age. Nico­las Sarkozy tried to min­imise this fail­ure, even assum­ing that this agree­ment was infi­nite­ly bet­ter than the Kyoto Pro­to­col.11Libéra­tion: Com­ment Sarkozy enjo­live le bilan du som­met de Copen­h­ague, 11/01/2010. He was rapid­ly con­tra­dict­ed by Lau­rence Tubiana, cli­mate expert and mem­ber of the French del­e­ga­tion in Copen­hagen: “I would not say that it is bet­ter than Kyoto […] Kyoto was exem­plary and we still are not at its lev­el, not at all.”22Tubiana, L.: Inter­view to French TV Pro­gram Canal +,12/01/2010. As a mat­ter of fact, and accord­ing to Michel Colom­bier, ener­gy expert from the Insti­tute for Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment and Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions (IDDRI), “one must be very opti­mistic in order to find in Copenhagen’s com­mit­ments any rea­son to be sat­is­fied.”33Colom­bier, M.: Pourquoi des résul­tats si mit­igés à Copen­h­ague, Inter­face. Con­fronta­tions Europe, Bul­letin Men­su­el n°53, 01/2010, p. 4. Pious inten­tions and gen­er­al good­will did not lead to a def­i­nite bind­ing agree­ment, regrets French cen­tre-left news­pa­per Le Monde.44Le Monde: Décep­tion, 20/12/2009. This is not only dis­ap­point­ing regard­ing its con­tents, but also uncer­tain on a pro­ce­dur­al per­spec­tive.55Guérin, E.: La coopéra­tion inter­na­tionale sur le cli­mat après Copen­h­ague, Etudes, n° 4124, April 2010, pp. 473–484. Pierre Radanne, ener­gy expert and for­mer pres­i­dent of the French Agency for the Envi­ron­ment and Ener­gy Man­age­ment (ADEME), invites more opti­mism: “As with any his­tor­i­cal event”, he assumes, “the con­fer­ence in Copen­hagen can­not be assessed after the first episode. We must wait the rest of the saga.”66Radanne, P.: Les enseigne­ments de la Con­férence de Copen­h­ague, Pre­sen­ta­tion to Natix­is Asset Man­age­ment, 21/01/2010.

Europe’s strat­e­gy regard­ing these nego­ti­a­tions has also been crit­i­cised. Accord­ing to Le Monde, “Europe put for­ward some ambi­tious tar­gets which it was unable to gain con­sen­sus on.”77Le Monde: Décep­tion, 20/12/2009. Even more crit­i­cal, Hervé Kempf, a French jour­nal­ist spe­cialised in envi­ron­men­tal issues, assumes that Europe abdi­cat­ed its respon­si­bil­i­ties in Copen­hagen.88Le Monde: L’Europe a démis­sion­né à la con­férence de Copen­h­ague, 24/12/2009. “Although we have the most con­gru­ous envi­ron­men­tal pol­i­cy”, he says, “the EU quit the field of the bat­tle, leav­ing it in the hands of Chi­na and the Unit­ed States.” He also crit­i­cis­es the fact that EU mem­ber states sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly decried the work done by the Unit­ed Nations. Jean Qua­tremer, his col­league from Libéra­tion and recog­nised for his com­pe­tence on Euro­pean mat­ters, is more bal­anced regard­ing EU’s atti­tude. Accord­ing to him, the EU could not have done more than it did for envi­ron­men­tal­ism: it is the only polit­i­cal enti­ty that has set ambi­tious and bind­ing tar­gets to tack­le cli­mate issue. Emmanuel Guérin (IDDRI) adds the fact that only the EU (along with Japan and Nor­way) accept­ed to nego­ti­ate its emis­sions reduc­tion tar­get (between 20 and 30 per­cent).99Guérin, E.: La coopéra­tion inter­na­tionale sur le cli­mat après Copen­h­ague, Etudes, n° 4124, 04/2010, p. 473–484. How­ev­er, this dis­play of virtue was not enough to ensure a sat­is­fac­to­ry out­come to the meet­ing. The prob­lem, con­cludes Qua­tremer, is that the EU lacked any means of impos­ing its agen­da on three quar­ters of the plan­et: “We had no option but to step down”.1010Libéra­tion: Copen­h­ague, un échec européen?, 20/12/2009.

Europe must remain a climate forerunner

Europe’s respon­si­bil­i­ty lies in its nego­ti­a­tion strat­e­gy. Accord­ing to Michel Colom­bier, researcher at IDDRI, this strat­e­gy – gain­ing more ambi­tious tar­gets from devel­op­ing coun­tries by propos­ing to increase its own tar­get and extend the car­bon mar­ket – had a major weak­ness: it implied an inter­na­tion­al scruti­ny on the nature and imple­men­ta­tion of devel­op­ing coun­tries’ poli­cies, thus chal­leng­ing the sov­er­eign­ty they were try­ing to pre­serve. How­ev­er, as repeat­ed by many French observers, though lack­ing influ­ence dur­ing these nego­ti­a­tions, Europe remains the fore­run­ner regard­ing cli­mate poli­cies. Accord­ing to the Green Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment (MP) and econ­o­mist Pas­cal Can­fin, in light of a dis­ap­point­ing agree­ment in Copen­hagen, Europe must act quick­ly and strong­ly. Two-thirds of gas emis­sions (road trans­ports, heat­ing, elec­tric­i­ty, etc.) are not con­cerned with glob­al­i­sa­tion, he assumes, thus, Europe must not fear the “glob­al com­pe­ti­tion” regard­ing these activ­i­ties.1111Can­fin, P.: Alter­na­tives Economiques, n° 83, Decem­ber 2009. Olivi­er Godard, direc­tor of research at the Nation­al Sci­en­tif­ic Research Cen­tre (CNRS) shares the idea that Europe must go fur­ther, hop­ing that oth­er region­al pow­ers will increase their con­scious­ness. How­ev­er, he fears that Euro­pean coun­tries could be tempt­ed to revise their ambi­tions due to the lack of inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion. Europe should then imple­ment mech­a­nisms that make some adjust­ments at its bor­ders, such as an eco­tax.1212Godard, O.: Inter­view to Alter­na­tives Economiques, n° 288, Feb­ru­ary 2010.

Criticism towards international forms of cooperation

Copen­hagen sym­bol­is­es, accord­ing to Olivi­er Godard, the fail­ure of the strong inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion that emerged in Rio in 1992 and was rein­forced by the Kyoto Pro­to­col.1313Ibid. Europe tried to sup­port this approach, but Copen­hagen leaves an impres­sion of weak­er coop­er­a­tion. Each par­tic­i­pant has its own region­al or nation­al pol­i­cy with min­i­mum con­sul­ta­tion. This is the US and Chi­nese approach, and the French schol­ar does not see any­thing that could change this sit­u­a­tion. Fac­ing this sit­u­a­tion, Pres­i­dent Sarkozy crit­i­cised the UN and its capac­i­ty to cre­ate inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion. “There must be some results”, he said. “The UN is essen­tial, but, at the same time, it does not work […] if G199 does not want to be con­test­ed by oth­er Gs [G20, G8, etc.] it must take some ini­tia­tives.”1414Eurac­tiv: Sarkozy appelle à un change­ment de méth­ode sur le cli­mat, 12/03/2010. Thus the French Pres­i­dent pro­pos­es the cre­ation of a small group of coun­tries, rep­re­sent­ing all con­ti­nents, in order to pre­pare future nego­ti­a­tions. Anoth­er solu­tion remains at the local lev­el, empha­sised by Green MEP Pas­cal Can­fin.1515Can­fin, P.: Alter­na­tives Economiques, n° 83, 12/2009. Accord­ing to him, more than 50 per­cent of tar­gets that should have been decid­ed in Copen­hagen are com­pe­tences for local actors (urban­ism, trans­ports, spa­tial plan­ning, etc.). The fail­ure of a glob­al agree­ment makes ambi­tious local poli­cies even more necessary.

Taxation on financial transactions in order to help developing countries fight climate change?

France’s offi­cial posi­tion was to sup­port the pro­gramme to finance efforts of devel­op­ing coun­tries. One month after the sum­mit in Copen­hagen, the Min­is­ter for Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment, Jean-Louis Bor­loo, asked for rapid imple­men­ta­tion of this mech­a­nism. “These new financ­ing mea­sures are a his­tor­i­cal oppor­tu­ni­ty to realise invest­ments nec­es­sary in order to tack­le cli­mate change issues”, he said.1616Bor­loo, J.L.: Com­mu­niqué de Presse, 18/01/2010. Corinne Lep­age, French MEP and recog­nised in envi­ron­men­tal pol­i­cy field, declares to be sat­is­fied by this propo­si­tion to finance about 10 bil­lions Euros each year until 2012. Financ­ing the par­tic­i­pa­tion of devel­op­ing coun­tries to the glob­al effort against cli­mate change is one of three main issues regard­ing emis­sions reduc­tion tar­gets and the ques­tion of enforce­ment mechanisms.

A cru­cial issue in this debate remains the way to finance this mech­a­nism. France pro­posed to imple­ment a tax on finan­cial trans­ac­tions in order to chal­lenge cli­mate change, an idea that Pres­i­dent Nico­las Sarkozy will pro­pose to the G20 mem­ber states.1717Eurac­tiv: Sarkozy appelle à un change­ment de méth­ode sur le cli­mat, 12/03/2010. Such a fis­cal instru­ment is, how­ev­er, even debat­ed with­in the gov­ern­ment. Where­as Jean-Louis Bor­loo con­sid­ers this tax as an instru­ment to sup­port cli­mate change poli­cies in devel­op­ing coun­tries, his col­league Bernard Kouch­n­er, Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs, assumes this tax could finance the fight against pover­ty, for exam­ple, edu­ca­tion or health pol­i­cy. Philippe Hugon, an econ­o­mist spe­cialised in devel­op­ment stud­ies, sees this debate as a good sig­nal, because cli­mate change and devel­op­ment issues are indi­vis­i­ble. For­mu­lat­ing projects that tack­le both prob­lems could be a solu­tion to these debates.1818Hugon, P.: Inter­view to Le Jour­nal du Dimanche, 15/09/2009.

    Footnotes

  • 1Libéra­tion: Com­ment Sarkozy enjo­live le bilan du som­met de Copen­h­ague, 11/01/2010.
  • 2Tubiana, L.: Inter­view to French TV Pro­gram Canal +,12/01/2010.
  • 3Colom­bier, M.: Pourquoi des résul­tats si mit­igés à Copen­h­ague, Inter­face. Con­fronta­tions Europe, Bul­letin Men­su­el n°53, 01/2010, p. 4.
  • 4Le Monde: Décep­tion, 20/12/2009.
  • 5Guérin, E.: La coopéra­tion inter­na­tionale sur le cli­mat après Copen­h­ague, Etudes, n° 4124, April 2010, pp. 473–484.
  • 6Radanne, P.: Les enseigne­ments de la Con­férence de Copen­h­ague, Pre­sen­ta­tion to Natix­is Asset Man­age­ment, 21/01/2010.
  • 7Le Monde: Décep­tion, 20/12/2009.
  • 8Le Monde: L’Europe a démis­sion­né à la con­férence de Copen­h­ague, 24/12/2009.
  • 9Guérin, E.: La coopéra­tion inter­na­tionale sur le cli­mat après Copen­h­ague, Etudes, n° 4124, 04/2010, p. 473–484.
  • 10Libéra­tion: Copen­h­ague, un échec européen?, 20/12/2009.
  • 11Can­fin, P.: Alter­na­tives Economiques, n° 83, Decem­ber 2009.
  • 12Godard, O.: Inter­view to Alter­na­tives Economiques, n° 288, Feb­ru­ary 2010.
  • 13Ibid.
  • 14Eurac­tiv: Sarkozy appelle à un change­ment de méth­ode sur le cli­mat, 12/03/2010.
  • 15Can­fin, P.: Alter­na­tives Economiques, n° 83, 12/2009.
  • 16Bor­loo, J.L.: Com­mu­niqué de Presse, 18/01/2010.
  • 17Eurac­tiv: Sarkozy appelle à un change­ment de méth­ode sur le cli­mat, 12/03/2010.
  • 18Hugon, P.: Inter­view to Le Jour­nal du Dimanche, 15/09/2009.

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.