European Movement UK

Britain's future is with Europe! Join the debate and put your opinion forward!

By Roland Rudd, Chairman, Business for New Europe

As world leaders gathered in Copenhagen last December for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, President Sarkozy of France delivered a rallying call urging those gathered – including over 120 leaders – to put aside their differences and agree upon the instruments necessary to tackle climate change. He said, “Time is against us, let’s stop posturing… A failure in Copenhagen would be a catastrophe for each and every one of us”.

Looking back at what many consider to be the failed Copenhagen negotiations, there is a widespread belief that a golden opportunity has been lost. The negotiations failed to reach a substantive agreement because a small number of countries, primarily from South America and Africa, scuppered a global agreement. It is widely acknowledged that they did so at the behest of China, reflecting the enormous changes that have occurred in geopolitics over recent years, and their implications for the green economy.

How can we ensure that the same doesn’t happen again in Cancun? If we are serious about resolving the issue of climate change, European governments and businesses must persuade developing countries that their interests lie with the EU and the United States in achieving a solution, rather than in following China down the road of not doing enough.

To give one example; Africa could benefit enormously from a global carbon trading system. At present, the carbon trading system disproportionately benefits China, almost to the exclusion of everyone else. The majority of funds generated by it go to China, with Africa receiving about 3%. We need to change this system, and by changing the system, persuade developing countries in Africa, South America and other parts of the globe that their future lies with Europe. It is the first step in countering the threat of climate change.

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  1. I think we should all be careful when accusing one country or another of the “failure” of Copenhagen. Many journalists have taken this easy path and pointed at China and the US for example, but it is, in my mind, counterproductive and each country has in fact its bit of responsibility for what happened.
    Moreover, not all is black and white: China showed huge progress in its climate and energy policy during the few months preceding the conference, and the US, although President Obama has been trying to revolutionize the US climate policy, is not blameless! Africa and South America were just asking for some more consideration from rich countries and were instead left totally out of the crucial final negotiations which led to the Copenhagen Accord (so no wonder they were not happy with the outcomes). And so was the European Union!
    Copenhagen has indeed shown enormous changes in geopolitics, in particular that China and India (plus the other developing countries of the so called BASIC group) have more weight on the international stage but that unfortunately Europe has less! Once again, the EU member states behaved as single states and not as part of a group and thus undermined the whole credibility of the European Union. The African Union was more united than the European Union! The European Union should think of the Copenhagen conference as a wake up call. Are we leading the world in tackling climate change? If yes, let’s show it!
    Finally, if the carbon trading system, i.e. the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), gives just 3% of all projects to Africa, is it China’s fault? Isn’t it intead owing to the strutural problem of the CDM or perhaps because companies for now are more interested in investing in China rather than in Africa?

  2. There is debate going on about whether China or America is the biggest villain arising from Copenhagen, or is it India, or maybe Brazil? There will be a lot of debate on this issue in the months to come, for sure. I am not qualified or expert enough to post an analysis on this issue, but there are two other lessons nevertheless that I can point to.

    First, there is the fact that there is a dispute about the meaning of Copenhagen at all. An international decision is unclear and, moreover, there is no means of making it more precise. (Anyone who has been following the debate in front of the Chilcot inquiry about the exact meaning of UN Security Resolution 1441. a key staging post in the route to war in Iraq, will be familiar with the problem.) If legal wordings are unclear, we go to the court to get them sorted out. But when it comes to the Copenhagen agreement, where is the environmental court? In the case of the Iraq war, how are decisions to be made? As Jack Straw said http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/43511/doc_2010_01_26_11_04_18_456.pdf , “There is no international court for resolving such questions in the manner of a domestic court.”

    In the European Union, by contrast, there is such a court. The European Court of Justice gets a lot of criticism sometimes, notably from Eurosceptics, but the examples of the chaos and confusion that ensues when there is no court at all show us how valuable the ECJ is to the way we live in Europe.

    The second lesson relates to the participants in the dispute themselves, that is to say, America, China, India and Brazil. This is the future of the world. The era when individual nations in Europe could dominate the world stage is over. The techniques and technologies that arose first in Europe and pushed European countries to the front rank are now widely shared around the world. Europeans, and there are only 500 million of them in the EU, will play a role in future global decisions together, or not at all. In Copenhagen, Europeans were present at the beginning, staffing the check-in desks and welcoming the delegates, but were missing from the crucial final sessions. If the people of Europe want to exercise influence over the next round of negotiations over fighting climate change, they will have to be organised and united.

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