Turn climate action into Apollo mission, says leading MEP

The United States succeeded in bringing people to the moon: a dream that nobody thought would be realised. Perhaps we should think of climate protection as the new Apollo programme, the vice-chair of the European Parliament’s delegation in Copenhagen, Karl-Heinz Florenz, told EURACTIV in an interview.

The centre-right German MEP was blunt in saying that rather than the climate, leaders should focus on the economy. 

“We will have to overcome the inertia of past practices, we need to make sure that coming laws are not the ‘paper tigers’ that we had in the past,” Florenz argued, stressing that today’s investments will form the basis of tomorrow’s growth. “It is about building a new economic model,” he said. 

“The economy is there,” stressed the second-in-command of the European Parliament’s delegation to the Copenhagen talks. “It tells us that the immense costs of tackling climate change will be matched by the enormous growth potential of the revolution in sustainable development, the revolution in energy efficiency, in energy production, in consumption and transport,” he said. 

Florenz indeed considers delegates should engage in talks more as they would do in trade negotiations. “The global market in low-carbon goods and services is already worth five trillion dollars and is expected to increase by another 50% over the next decade,” he pointed out.

“Sustainability is key. It is not only about climate protection, but about the future of our industry. It is about jobs,” the German MEP said, before noting that industrialised countries cannot curb emissions on their own: they need partners. 

“Financing action on climate change is not only the responsibility of the developed world,” argued Florenz, who stressed that financing climate protection cannot be part of official development aid. 

“We cannot allow that our fight against climate change to divert money from the poorest,” he underlined. 

Describing the UN climate conference in Copenhagen as an historic moment, Florenz called for an historic decision to be taken. Citing as an example the Bretton Woods agreement, which set the system of monetary management, and the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after the war, the centre-right MEP called for action.

“I often get the impression that we do not see the bottom line on the debate and lose ourselves in small details and fussy debates,” he said. 

Karl-Heinz Florenz was speaking to Daniela Vincenti-Mitchener.

To read the interview in full, please click here.

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