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Climate networking in Budapest

I am in Budapest, the capital of Hungary, which currently holds the EU Presidency. An attractive city, these give a brief impression, taken during my coffee break.

The European Journalism Centre on behalf of the European Commission is holding a conference for journalists here. Today we were focusing on energy and climate and in particular the EU’s new road map for “moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050″, which was released last week.
It’s really interesting to meet and network here with so many journalists from eastern and central European countries and to hear their different perspectives on climate change and communicating it. Both informally on the sidelines and during the sessions, the huge differences in living standards and finances between some countries become available. One colleague said it was impossible to persuade poor farmers or other rural residents in Roumania to invest in insulating their houses to make them more “climate friendly“ when they didn’t even have the money to buy fuel to heat their homes in the first place.
So when it comes to the EU’s proposed road map for reducing fuel consumption, clearly the views in different regions are going to be very different. So are the media and attitudes towards environmental issues in general.
Artur Runge-Metzger is the Director of the DG Climate Action for the European Commission. He presented the new plan, which he stresses is in no way binding, but designed to provoke debate.

It sets out ways key economic sectors could achieve an overall 80% reduction in the EU’s emissions by 2050 (compared to 1990). The member states will be discussing and evaluating it between now and June.It will also be interesting to see how different industries and businesses react. The positive thing is, I find, it stresses that it is possible to be competitive while still reducing emissions (admittedly using some technologies not everybody would accept as safe and clean, more later)
WWF’s Director of Global Energy Stephan Singer is also here. He welcomed the road map as a good start but (as you might expect) said it was “too timid”. He sees it as positive that the EU has come out with a document like this at all and that it focuses on domestic measures to reduce emissions.
The EU’s figures of course include nuclear and were published just before the Japanese reactor accidents. I had to ask the question of how the disaster is affecting the EU’s approach. At fist Mr Runge-Metzger was reluctant to answer, saying the Commission respects the member states’ individual policies on this. But later he told me of course the accident was putting a new spotlight on nuclear and might well influence some countries to change their minds. It clearly changes the situation.
In a talk with my colleague Pavel Antonov, a Bulgarian journalist now researching into climate change and the media, he drew my attention to a comment in the Guardian by George Monbiot. I was flabbergasted when I read it. He has changed tack and says he is now for nuclear because the side-effects of the disaster have not been too bad, considering. I find that unbelievable and I think it is too early to come out with that. Or are you just trying to provoke us George? The latest press release I just received from Greenpeace expresses deep concern about the radioactive contamination of Tokyo’s drinking water and the official information policy surrounding the accident. These are very difficult times all round. More tomorrow. Tonight we have a discussion on covering climate change in the media and differences in different media, different countries, etc.


March 23, 2011 | 5:10 pm