Energy and climate change

Copenhagen and its aftermath

The Copen­hagen con­fer­ence is wide­ly regard­ed in the Unit­ed King­dom as a reverse for the Euro­pean Union. The Union is seen as hav­ing played only a mar­gin­al role in the nego­ti­a­tions, and where Euro­pean voic­es were raised, they were appar­ent­ly those of the major mem­ber states rather than that of the Com­mis­sion. The results of the con­fer­ence itself are gen­er­al­ly seen in this coun­try as incon­clu­sive, but this is an out­come of less con­cern to British elec­tors than might have been the case twelve months ago. Opin­ion polls have shown a def­i­nite decline in the inter­est of British elec­tors in ques­tions relat­ing to cli­mate change over the past year.11Jowitt, The Guardian, 25 March 2010.

Future negotiations on climate change

The out­go­ing Labour gov­ern­ment advo­cat­ed from the begin­ning of this year a move by the Euro­pean Union to more demand­ing tar­gets for the reduc­tion of car­bon emis­sions. The incom­ing coali­tion gov­ern­ment, in which the promi­nent Lib­er­al Demo­c­rat Christo­pher Huhne is the Sec­re­tary of State for the Envi­ron­ment, has con­tin­ued this advo­ca­cy, although British NGOs have called for a 40 per­cent reduc­tion tar­get rather than the 30 per­cent envis­aged by the British gov­ern­ment.22World Wildlife Fund, press release, 26 May 2010. It seems to be com­mon ground between all the British polit­i­cal par­ties that the set­ting of demand­ing reduc­tion tar­gets for the reduc­tion of car­bon emis­sions will con­tribute to reestab­lish­ing the Union’s posi­tion as a leader of the glob­al debate on these issues.33B. Web­ster, The Times, 23 March 2010. Per­haps because of declin­ing inter­est in these ques­tions in the Unit­ed King­dom, per­haps because of the fix­a­tion of British polit­i­cal atten­tion upon the gen­er­al elec­tion, the ques­tion of the British government’s and the Euro­pean Union’s reac­tions to the rel­a­tive fail­ure of the Copen­hagen meet­ing has not been as broad­ly dis­cussed over the past six months as might have been expect­ed. Gov­ern­men­tal sup­port for more demand­ing Euro­pean tar­gets for reduc­ing car­bon emis­sions has not led to any marked pub­lic reac­tion, whether pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive. Nor is there any notice­able pub­lic pres­sure for the British gov­ern­ment or the Euro­pean Union to take deci­sive new mea­sures in response to the unsat­is­fac­to­ry out­come of the Copen­hagen conference.

The United Nations or other fora?

No oth­er forum enjoys more cred­i­bil­i­ty in the Unit­ed King­dom than the Unit­ed Nations as a vehi­cle for nego­ti­a­tions on cli­mate change. The aware­ness of the lim­i­ta­tions of even this tra­di­tion­al forum as a gen­er­a­tor of inter­na­tion­al agree­ment on cli­mate change accounts in large part for a sense of frus­tra­tion and las­si­tude which under­lies much cur­rent dis­cus­sion of cli­mate-relat­ed issues in the Unit­ed Kingdom.

Mitigation and adaptation

The coali­tion agree­ment between the Con­ser­v­a­tive and Lib­er­al Demo­c­rat Par­ties estab­lished after the recent gen­er­al elec­tion com­mits both sig­na­to­ries to “explore the cre­ation of new inter­na­tion­al sources of fund­ing for the pur­pose of cli­mate change mit­i­ga­tion and adap­ta­tion.”44Coali­tion agree­ment, May 2010. This rep­re­sents a con­tin­u­a­tion of the pol­i­cy of the pre­vi­ous Labour gov­ern­ment and is known to be a pol­i­cy to which the new Sec­re­tary of State for the Envi­ron­ment, Christo­pher Huhne, is per­son­al­ly great­ly committed.


  • 1Jowitt, The Guardian, 25 March 2010.
  • 2World Wildlife Fund, press release, 26 May 2010.
  • 3B. Web­ster, The Times, 23 March 2010.
  • 4Coali­tion agree­ment, May 2010.

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.