Latvia supports the fight against climate change

As in many parts of the world, the pre­vail­ing view in Latvia has been that the 2009 Unit­ed Nations Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence, com­mon­ly known as the Copen­hagen sum­mit or the Copen­hagen cli­mate con­fer­ence, was by and large a fail­ure. Latvia had whole­heart­ed­ly sup­port­ed the pro­pos­als of the EU that had been approved at the Coun­cil of the Euro­pean Union on 29–30 Octo­ber 2009 in Brus­sels. The only caveat of the Lat­vians was that the plans adopt­ed in Copen­hagen on 7–18 Decem­ber 2009 should take into con­sid­er­a­tion the eco­nom­ic and finan­cial sit­u­a­tion of each coun­try com­mit­ting itself to the com­mon goals.11Min­istry of For­eign Affairs: Press Release, 30 Octo­ber 2009, avail­able at: http://www.mfa.gov.lv/lv/Jaunumi/PazinojumiPresei/2009/oktobris/30–01/ (last access: 14 July 2010).

Already before the con­clu­sion of the UN cli­mate con­fer­ence, Latvia’s Prime Min­is­ter Vald­is Dom­brovskis, who attend­ed the inter­na­tion­al gath­er­ing in the Dan­ish cap­i­tal, pre­dict­ed that the con­fer­ence would end with­out an agree­ment on any of its ambi­tious goals. He told the Lat­vian TV jour­nal­ists that, in all like­li­hood, the ques­tions dis­cussed at the con­fer­ence would serve as a basis for ham­mer­ing out, at a lat­er time, an accord to lim­it cli­mate change.22LETA, 18 Decem­ber 2009, avail­able at: http://www.delfi.lv/archive/print.php?id=28797277 (last access: 14 July 2010). These views were shared by the Envi­ron­ment Min­is­ter, Rai­monds Vējo­nis, who said after the con­fer­ence that all the pro­pos­als lead­ing to sub­stan­tive action fell through and that every­thing would have to start again from the begin­ning, because the accord that was final­ly agreed upon is so weak. He added that ”regard­less of the results of the Copen­hagen sum­mit, which, bar­ring a few excep­tions, dis­heart­ened the whole world, Latvia must con­tin­ue to do what it has start­ed to do: insu­late dwellings so as to reduce ener­gy con­sump­tion, switch from fos­sil fuels to renew­able ener­gy sources, and improve tech­nolo­gies so as to dimin­ish air pol­lu­tion.”33LETA, 19 Decem­ber 2009, avail­able at: http://www.delfi.lv/archive/print.php?id=28806589 (last access: 14 July 2010). Stress­ing that Latvia shares the EU view that mankind is to blame for the cli­mate changes, Vējo­nis observed that green­house gas emis­sions must be reduced by all countries.

Equal­ly crit­i­cal of the out­come of the con­fer­ence was the Lat­vian researcher, Rei­nis Āboltiņš, who spe­cialis­es in issues relat­ed to ener­gy pol­i­cy at the Cen­tre for Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Providus in Riga. In a post-con­fer­ence assess­ment, Āboltiņš not­ed the mea­gre results and com­ment­ed: “the Copen­hagen cli­mate con­fer­ence has shot itself in the foot” in that the only ones sat­is­fied with the out­come of the con­fer­ence, it seems, are those whose wel­fare depends on man­u­fac­tur­ing or oth­er activ­i­ties which have a clear­ly neg­a­tive effect on the envi­ron­ment.44Rei­nis Āboltiņš: Nom­i­natīvs — Kas? — nenoteik­tī­ba Lokatīvs — Kur? — Kopen­hā­genā (in Eng­lish “Nom­i­na­tive – What? – Ambi­gu­i­ty. Loca­tive – Where? – Copen­hagen”), avail­able at: http://www.politika.lv/temas/vide_un_ilgtspeja/17909/ (last access: 14 July 2010).

The ques­tion of chang­ing the Euro­pean Union’s own ener­gy and cli­mate pol­i­cy in order to pro­vide a new impe­tus to the inter­na­tion­al nego­ti­a­tions is not a top­ic of cur­rent dis­cus­sion in Latvia. The Lat­vian experts and the media appear to share the opin­ion that the poor results of the Copen­hagen cli­mate con­fer­ence are pri­mar­i­ly the con­se­quence of great pow­er inter­ests, rather than any spe­cif­ic short­com­ings in the EU ener­gy and cli­mate policy.

Latvia sup­ports the Union’s ener­gy and cli­mate pol­i­cy in gen­er­al, despite the fact that there are reser­va­tions regard­ing some EU posi­tions and pro­ce­dures. This is also true regard­ing the Union’s posi­tion at the Copen­hagen cli­mate con­fer­ence in Decem­ber 2010, because there are no major dif­fer­ences between the Union’s posi­tion and Latvia’s on the issues that were dis­cussed. The Lat­vian gov­ern­ment approved its posi­tion paper already on 22 Sep­tem­ber 2009.”55Infor­matī­vais ziņo­jums par nacionā­lo pozī­ci­ju “Par ES nos­tāju starp­tautiska­jās sarunās par kli­ma­ta poli­tiku pēc 2012.gada (gatavošanās ANO Kli­ma­ta pār­maiņu kon­fer­en­cei 2009.gada 7.–18.decembrī)”, avail­able at: http://www.mk.gov.lv/lv/mk/tap/?pid=40145038 (last access: 14 July 2010). In a nut­shell, Latvia believes that glob­al com­mit­ment is essen­tial if a dent is to be made in stop­ping cli­mate change.

In antic­i­pa­tion of the EU envi­ron­ment min­is­ters meet­ing on 15 March 2010, the Lat­vian gov­ern­ment issued anoth­er pol­i­cy paper. Accord­ing to that doc­u­ment, Latvia agrees in gen­er­al with the Council’s con­clu­sions regard­ing the Copen­hagen con­fer­ence and regard­ing what should be done before the fol­low-up con­fer­ence in Can­cun, Mex­i­co in late 2010. In the pol­i­cy paper, the Lat­vian gov­ern­ment reit­er­ates the impor­tance of agree­ing upon a glob­al frame­work regime for reduc­ing cli­mate change after 2012. To achieve this, the EU should devel­op a strong strat­e­gy and assess the poten­tial effect of future poli­cies on EU mem­ber states, as well as con­tin­ue active coop­er­a­tion with oth­er coun­tries to explain the ideas and goals of cli­mate pol­i­cy and win their sup­port. For Latvia, it is essen­tial that the EU’s tran­si­tion to reduc­ing its emis­sions occurs on the con­di­tion that oth­er devel­oped and devel­op­ing coun­tries also assume equi­table com­mit­ments for reduc­tions or ade­quate invest­ments. To ensure this, the Com­mis­sion must assess the goals of oth­er coun­tries and use them as a basis to decide whether the EU should set stricter emis­sion goals. At the same time, the Com­mis­sion should analyse the poten­tial socio-eco­nom­ic effects of adap­ta­tion to the goals of reduc­ing emis­sions by 30 per­cent and show the effects on the EU as a whole and on each of the mem­ber states.66Par Latvi­jas nacionāla­jām pozī­ci­jām Eiropas Savienības Vides min­istru padomes 2010. gada 15.marta sanāksmē izskatā­ma­jos jautāju­mos, avail­able at: http://www.mk.gov.lv/doc/2005/VIDMZino_080310.632.doc (last access: 14 July 2010).

Giv­en the pre­ced­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tions of Latvia’s posi­tion and its empha­sis on the neces­si­ty to make reduc­ing cli­mate change a glob­al com­mit­ment, it fol­lows that the Lat­vian gov­ern­ment is not con­tem­plat­ing alter­na­tives to the strat­e­gy that the Euro­pean Union is fol­low­ing or the Unit­ed Nation Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change (UNFCCC). Fur­ther­more, it is felt that despite its imper­fec­tions, the UNFCCC func­tions and that all of the pos­si­bil­i­ties and options it offers have not been exhausted.

Con­cern­ing the financ­ing of mit­i­ga­tion and adap­ta­tion efforts to the var­i­ous under­tak­ings designed to reduce cli­mate change, in its posi­tion paper of 22 Sep­tem­ber 2009, the Lat­vian gov­ern­ment stat­ed that all this must be a part of a glob­al frame­work accord, because achiev­ing coor­di­nat­ed action to reduce cli­mate change is in the Union’s and Latvia’s best inter­est. Such a frame­work accord must also recog­nise that the Union assumes an equi­table share of the total finan­cial bur­den. “Latvia believes that all coun­tries, except the least devel­oped, must accept finan­cial respon­si­bil­i­ty to reduce emis­sions and to imple­ment adap­tive projects. Con­se­quent­ly, Latvia can­not accept the notion that rich devel­op­ing coun­tries become recip­i­ents of finan­cial assis­tance, while the poor coun­tries or the devel­oped coun­tries with low emis­sions serve as their donors.”77Infor­matī­vais ziņo­jums par nacionā­lo pozī­ci­ju “Par ES nos­tāju starp­tautiska­jās sarunās par kli­ma­ta poli­tiku pēc 2012.gada (gatavošanās ANO Kli­ma­ta pār­maiņu kon­fer­en­cei 2009.gada 7.–18.decembrī)”, avail­able at: http://www.mk.gov.lv/lv/mk/tap/?pid=40145038 (last access: 14 July 2010). There­fore, the Union should not assume uni­lat­er­al­ly ambi­tious com­mit­ments when there is not an ade­quate or com­men­su­rate com­mit­ment from oth­er devel­oped or devel­op­ing countries.

    Footnotes

  • 1Min­istry of For­eign Affairs: Press Release, 30 Octo­ber 2009, avail­able at: http://www.mfa.gov.lv/lv/Jaunumi/PazinojumiPresei/2009/oktobris/30–01/ (last access: 14 July 2010).
  • 2LETA, 18 Decem­ber 2009, avail­able at: http://www.delfi.lv/archive/print.php?id=28797277 (last access: 14 July 2010).
  • 3LETA, 19 Decem­ber 2009, avail­able at: http://www.delfi.lv/archive/print.php?id=28806589 (last access: 14 July 2010).
  • 4Rei­nis Āboltiņš: Nom­i­natīvs — Kas? — nenoteik­tī­ba Lokatīvs — Kur? — Kopen­hā­genā (in Eng­lish “Nom­i­na­tive – What? – Ambi­gu­i­ty. Loca­tive – Where? – Copen­hagen”), avail­able at: http://www.politika.lv/temas/vide_un_ilgtspeja/17909/ (last access: 14 July 2010).
  • 5Infor­matī­vais ziņo­jums par nacionā­lo pozī­ci­ju “Par ES nos­tāju starp­tautiska­jās sarunās par kli­ma­ta poli­tiku pēc 2012.gada (gatavošanās ANO Kli­ma­ta pār­maiņu kon­fer­en­cei 2009.gada 7.–18.decembrī)”, avail­able at: http://www.mk.gov.lv/lv/mk/tap/?pid=40145038 (last access: 14 July 2010).
  • 6Par Latvi­jas nacionāla­jām pozī­ci­jām Eiropas Savienības Vides min­istru padomes 2010. gada 15.marta sanāksmē izskatā­ma­jos jautāju­mos, avail­able at: http://www.mk.gov.lv/doc/2005/VIDMZino_080310.632.doc (last access: 14 July 2010).
  • 7Infor­matī­vais ziņo­jums par nacionā­lo pozī­ci­ju “Par ES nos­tāju starp­tautiska­jās sarunās par kli­ma­ta poli­tiku pēc 2012.gada (gatavošanās ANO Kli­ma­ta pār­maiņu kon­fer­en­cei 2009.gada 7.–18.decembrī)”, avail­able at: http://www.mk.gov.lv/lv/mk/tap/?pid=40145038 (last access: 14 July 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.