Looking Back at Cancun: Part 3
Here's the third and final installment of Torsten Schäfer's commentary:
Europe Has to Take the Lead
It’s time for the major climate powers to sit down and set ambitious goals for fighting climate change. They have to capitalize on the important progress we saw in Cancun. If the major climate powers don’t lead the charge, smaller countries won’t follow along, and a new binding treaty–with strict emissions regulations–won’t even be possible in Durban. And that’s why the European Union has to take charge. It doesn’t look like any legitimate climate or energy legislation will come from the U.S., especially since Obama’s Power Act failed to gain traction in Congress. It’s highly unlikely that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will have the power to push forward significant climate legislation on its own. And as the U.S. goes, so does China in this case. Beijing has continuously made it clear that China will make no major commitment to fighting climate change if the U.S. doesn’t step up to the plate as well. That would cause a domino effect, and other major consumers like India and Brazil would also balk.
So the EU is left to carry the burden. Europe has proved in the past that it’s capable of coming through on ambitious environmental goals and programs. But in the last 2 years, as leading climate negotiators have dug in their heels, the EU too has hesitated, stalled and showed reluctance. That became evident in Cancun. Europe’s visionary climate programs have fallen by the wayside amid a financial crisis and infighting.
The fact that the EU lacks a strong leadership figure like former Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas in Brussels is part of the problem. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refusal to take the lead has also complicated things. Like France, Germany has started to express skepticism and discord in European politics, crippling Europe on the international stage. And this at a time when the EU is needed more than ever to lead climate talks.
In other words, the EU can only take control of global climate negotiations when it learns to speak with one voice. And in order for that to happen (and in order for Durban to be a success), Europe has to return to its values and its vision of integration across all platforms, including environmental protection. Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy have the power to bring about this change by going back to other member states and encouraging them to follow along. Only then will the EU win back its political power and its ability to lead a tough line on climate change. In the end, the success of climate legislation is tied closely to European politics. That’s an important lesson we can take away from Cancun.
DateDecember 16, 2010