Reflecting on European leadership in Copenhagen

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

The UN climate change conference in Copenhagen this December “may well determine whether or not the world can respond to a threat which scientists are convinced will lead to catastrophic change unless we act fast,” writes Michael Berendt, a senior policy advisor at Fleishman Hillard, on Blogactiv.

Asking whether Europe can provide leadership in Copenhagen, Berendt points out that “competition is hotting up for global leadership of the issue”. While President Obama has outlined his conviction that the US should be the leader of a “truly global coalition”, Europe would “no doubt prefer joint leadership,” he argues. 

Meanwhile, MEPs have already “set out a checklist of measures [to tackle climate change] which they believe must be implemented,” the post recalls. 

Competition for leadership between the EU and the US is unlikely to have much impact unless both can “secure the commitment of China, India and other advanced developing countries to transform their own energy policies,” the author asserts.

Indeed, “a failure to engage them while their economies are expanding will [diminish] all efforts of the old economies,” he fears. 

Thus the European Commission has put “great emphasis on the need for an effective financial architecture which would include payment of €90 billion a year for developing countries by 2020,” the blog post states. 

Although Europe has been the political leader in delivering climate change policies, Berendt believes the real challenge will be industrial leadership. 

He wonders whether the “commitments which are being made by the new US administration to support new clean technologies will be the contemporary equivalent of the Star Wars project [a huge funding initiative which led the US to become the unmatched global power in the defence industry]”. 

Europe’s “motor industry, aerospace, renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency models are all potential winners in the world markets, but [they] face competing programmes of support from across the Atlantic and from the rapidly evolving economies of South East Asia,” Berendt concludes. 

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