Peter Carl's comments were made yesterday (11 June) during a roundtable discussion on climate change and international security organised by Friends of Europe, a think tank.
A major UN climate change summit held in Bali last December set out a 'roadmap' for further negotiations towards a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. World leaders will meet again under the auspices of the UN for major climate change conferences in Poland in December 2008 and in Copenhagen in December 2009. There are high hopes that existing differences, in particular between the US, China and India, over the level of emissions commitments required by developed and developing countries can be resolved before the Copenhagen meeting.
But the talks have hardly made any progress, said Peter Carl, who raised concerns that the Bali roadmap is going "nowhere". In this context, the EU must set an example at international level by agreeing its own climate change measures before March 2009 in order to give a boost to the talks, he said.
In addition to speculation about the outcome of EU and global climate talks, the roundtable also addressed issues related to the impact of climate change on international security.
Climate change is a "threat multiplier" that is "challenging traditional concepts of security," said Erik Solheim, Norway's environment minister. Solheim expressed concerns about an increase in conflicts over dwindling arable land and water resources in "fragile states". Fossil fuel-rich Norway will divert some of the "enormous income" it is making from soaring oil prices towards aid and development measures, he said, urging other nations to follow suit.
Norway is also pushing heavily for the commercial development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as an essential tool for reducing global CO2 emissions.
But while Oslo has already given subsidies to two CCS demonstration plants, EU member states have thus far been reluctant to commit the necessary funds, and experts have been debating various options for financing the technology (EurActiv 04/06/08).
A breakthrough may be on the horizon, however. "There will be money," Peter Carl said, indicating that negotiations are taking place "behind the scenes".
But the director general also expressed some reservations about giving "de facto public support for a sector that has been doing extremely well in the past few years," he said in reference to major oil firms and large EU power companies, which have been widely accused of reaping 'windfall' profits from the over-allocation of emissions rights during the first trading period of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). The "nice little pot of gold" made by such companies should also be used to fund CCS, he added.