How to pass from Copenhagen to Mexico

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

“What role could the EU play to obtain a more successful outcome in Mexico [than in Copenhagen]?” asks Eberhard Rhein, a lecturer at the Mediterranean Academy for Diplomatic Studies in Malta, in a January post on Blogactiv.

“At the Commission hearings [in the European Parliament] on 15 January, the new climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, pleaded in favour of continuing to rely on the UN machinery as the way to reach an international agreement on climate change. After two years of unsuccessful preparations, in the UN framework, for the Copenhagen Climate Conference, this is a rather bold statement.

Where does she take her optimism that preparing for Mexico will be more effective and allow concluding the Mexico meeting, due to start in only 10 months, more successfully than Copenhagen? What role could the EU play to obtain a more successful outcome in Mexico?

What role will other major emitter countries allow her to play? These are the questions the EU has to address very rapidly.

First of all, the EU should draw its lessons from the Copenhagen disaster.

The EU environment ministers have done so at their informal meeting in Seville. But it is important enough for heads of government to address it again at their forthcoming meeting in Brussels on 11 February?

Second, the Commission should rapidly submit proposals for EU diplomatic action during 2010. The climate commissioner needs clear directives from the heads of government as to the objectives to pursue; and individual member states should abstain from intervening in her diplomatic action.

Third, any diplomatic action should focus on the main emitter countries. It is with these the EU needs to prepare a deal for Mexico. Without a prior consent among the ‘Big Few’ on the commitments and actions to be agreed upon in Mexico there is no point in convening another jumbo meeting with 193 countries.

Fourth, the EU needs a serious assessment of the respective interests of the main players in containing climate change. The EU is likely to suffer much less than China, India, Brazil, Australia, USA or South Africa from rising temperatures, droughts, melting glaciers etc. Its strong commitment to fight climate change stems more from a responsibility for humanity than fears about its own survival.

But the EU must also better understand the obstacles that emerging countries encounter in fighting climate change, offer them concrete assistance to define and implement effective action against climate change.

Fifth, the immediate target for any diplomatic climate action must be the USA. The Mexico Climate Conference is bound to fail again if the US Congress has not adopted its Climate Act by October 2010.

The Parliament and the Commission should therefore hold intensive discussions in the Senate and try to convince reluctant members of the absolute need to adopt their pending legislation.

Sixth, the UN machinery may still be useful for reaching a global agreement on climate change, but only if there is a radical change the rules of procedure. A unanimity requirement among close to 200 member countries is bound to stall the process at the expense of humanity. This is the message the EU should pass on to those countries that share with her the main responsibility for preserving sustainable climate conditions on earth.”

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