December 17, 2007
Perhaps I’m missing something, but to me Bali was a failure although not a disaster. I’m no expert on climate change but two questions bug me: What has Kyoto really achieved, after several years of negotiations and the 10 years which have since elapsed? What will the new treaty achieve at the end of a two year negotiation?
Yes, the US Administration now accepts the scientific evidence and that emissions must be drastically cut; but it’s unwillingness to accept the global view was for political rather than scientific reasons. The Americans are right that we Europeans have a habit of fixing targets but not achieving them and that effective measures are needed. But the answer is to accept targets and make sure that they are met. How can progress be measured except against targets?
But then the US – like China – jealously guards its national sovereignty and is therefore inclined to oppose internationally binding commitments. Al Gore urged the conference to be patient. “My own country, the United States, is mainly responsible for obstructing progress at
Bali,” he admitted, but are we sure that, as he suggests, there will be a drastic change if the Democrats win the White House? Mr Gore can clarify this by publicly asking all the candidates (Republican & Democrat) whether they are willing to accept targets.
Serious progress cannot be made without the US, China and India. Whatever Washington’s intentions, the perception is negative, reinforced by the White House on 15 December, while calling many parts of the Bali deal “quite positive”, stated that the US “does have serious concerns about other aspects of the decision as we begin the negotiations”.
But without the US joining Europe in setting an example, China and India cannot be expected to take any lead. That alone will not be enough as they will need huge financial support and the transfer of the necessary technology. As to the former, this is only fair having regard to the West’s historical polluting. As to the latter, intellectual property protection needs to be strengthened in China to make this happen.
Climate change is surely one policy area in which the European Union can demonstrate that it is a world leader in soft power. But first the 27 Member States must remember that the EU exists because its founding fathers saw their main challenges as common challenges requiring common solutions. Once the 27 really pull together as one, other countries can be persuaded to follow suit. We must set an example by continuing to fight climate change, whatever other countries do or don’t do.
Europe must keep an eye on her competitiveness but, if she acts courageously and together, other countries can be shamed – by public opinion – into follow suit. And then at least it won’t be said that European leaders fiddled while Rome, Paris, London, Berlin, Madrid, Warsaw…burned.