How Copenhagen brings shame on Europe

, by Pieter de Jaegher

How Copenhagen brings shame on Europe

As the Copenhagen Climate Summit has drawn to its end without a real perspective on further cooperation concerning Climate Change, several weaknesses have been laid bare. Most amazing of all was the deafening silence of the European Union during the conference.

Despite its new Lisbon Treaty, Europe was still represented by its different member states, all with their own interests, and not by the European Union. That’s very remarkable and sad if one reflects on the summit. The image of the European Union as champion of the climate was damaged by this weak deal. [1] Because of this inaction the EU will have lost credibility and legitimacy in its struggle to tackle climate change.

Although the European Union was one of the pioneers on climate change policy and a staunch advocate of the Kyoto protocol, it seemed to be absent at the summit. However, on 25 November the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of an ‘EU strategy for the Copenhagen climate change conference’. This mentioned a reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions of 30% by 2020. Together with its climate action plan of 2008 or the so-called 20/20/20 plan [2] the European Union should have had a major role to play at the Copenhagen conference. Unfortunately, the EU was not able to put pressure on the major polluting states, the United States and China, and others to push forward a real agreement that could be the start for a new focus on climate change after 2012 when the Kyoto protocol comes to an end. The future will make clear whether all this talk was in vain. Of course, the EU still has its own policy that will continue to be implemented, as stated president Barroso in a press conference.

The image of the European Union as champion of the climate was damaged by this weak deal.

One of the underlying reasons for this weak deal is that other major problem that the European Union still has to overcome. Where is its unity, its credibility and its determination to really support and expand its opinion and policy on climate change and be a pioneer on the external realm as well? It’s now very plain that the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty has not come a moment too soon. It makes it equally clear that a minister for foreign affairs and a state department certainly isn’t a luxury for Europe, au contraire.

At the Thessaloniki European Council in 2003 a Green Diplomacy Network [3] was created that had as objective to support and promote Europe’s policies on climate change to third parties all over the world in a coherent and effective manner. An ecological diplomacy, or at least an embryonic form was thus established. However, Copenhagen exposed the tasks and work that still lay ahead before this Green Diplomacy Network will truly be able to function.

Pointing in the direction of China and the United States and blame them for the weak results as some European parliamentarians and politicians do, is therefore meaningless. Europe should better look at its own house and reflect on where it fell short during the negotiations instead of shifting the responsibility for the outcome to other countries. This is of course a foul habit of European leaders (or leaders all over the world for that matter) from which it seems difficult to liberate themselves.

When will Europe learn to speak with one voice against the world and pursue its goals and defend its beliefs and policies? Copenhagen did not only expose the failure of global climate conferences, but of the EU’s foreign policy vis-à-vis climate change as well. No matter all its good intentions and strategies. And that is a real shame…

- Copenhagen conference, source: google images


[2A 20% reduction in European greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels, 20% increase in the share of renewables in energy use and improve energy efficiency by 20% by 2020.

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