Dimas's vision of a successful agreement in Copenhagen begins with quantifiable targets to cut emissions in developed countries and to slow down emissions growth in developing countries. In order to get emerging economies on board, the EU must continue discussions with the US to deliver a financing package, "notably fast-start finance allowing for early implementation," he said.
"We also need agreement on both the need for a legally-binding outcome in the form of a single treaty, and on how that treaty is to be delivered by mid-2010," the commissioner said, adding that the final outcome should build on the essentials of the Kyoto Protocol.
Dimas's declarations come amid reports that China, Brazil, South Africa and India are drafting a proposal that would see negotiations on a global climate treaty wrapped up by June 2010. The four major emerging economies are responsible for 30% of global carbon dioxide emissions.
A comprehensive treaty along such lines would be the best way to avoid the competitiveness issues that would arise should the EU unilaterally put in place advanced climate policies, Dimas said. He dismissed calls to introduce carbon tariffs at EU borders, saying that their political acceptability is "invariably problematic".
The commissioner warned against the risk of retaliation, which could at worst lead to a race between countries to establish similar measures.
"Let's not forget that border measures have a number of pitfalls. While they may offer some relief to energy intensive industries, there would be important negative side effects for other industries, sectors and consumers," Dimas stated.
He cited rising input prices and administrative costs for the industry, which could drive up the prices of emission allowances.
Integrated agenda for next commissioner
Dimas identified climate policy as one of the successes of his term as environment commissioner, but admitted that efforts to halt biodiversity loss had failed. Consequently, he pointed out that his successor would have his hands full next year.
"It would be wonderful if we could relax, having solved the problem of climate change, but unfortunately that won't be the case. Whatever the outcome in Copenhagen – and I am very positive about that – there will be a large amount of work to do to put the commitments into practice," the Greek said.
The EU will hopefully take on a 30% greenhouse gas reduction target following an agreement in Copenhagen, and "we will have to look carefully about how we go about it," he said.
Moreover, the EU will have to find connections between biodiversity protection and other policies, Dimas said. "This is very clearly the case with climate change, where mitigation and adaptation measures need to be fully compatible with policies for protecting nature," he said.
Another area where an integrated environmental agenda would make sense is the case of air pollution, the outgoing commissioner said. He said targeting air pollutants like ozone and black carbon in the ambient air could be more effective in the short term than controlling carbon emissions in terms of addressing global warming.
Moreover, there are conflicts between the two policies, as climate policies promote increased biomass combustion, resulting in higher emissions of black carbon. However, climate policies have so far had a beneficial impact on air quality as they have reduced energy and fossil fuel use, he said.
"In Copenhagen, the first priority will be to negotiate an effective agreement on climate mitigation. But there is certainly scope to develop and exploit the advantages of bringing climate and air pollution policies closer together," he concluded.
Dimas was speaking to Susanna Ala-Kurikka.