“Our engagement for climate protection should be independent from Copenhagen,” the newly-elected chair of the European Parliament’s environment committee, German Social Democratic MEP Jo Leinen, told EURACTIV in an interview, stressing that “if Copenhagen is a success, all the better; if not, we have to stick to our job”.
“The climate package was not conditional on results in Copenhagen. It was a self-evident challenge to meet and would not stop climate protection even if Copenhagen does not bring results,” he added.
The new environment committee chair started his career as an anti-nuclear activist in Germany, and until the Parliament went on recess for the European elections, he chaired the constitutional affairs committee, which for the past five years has been dealing with the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty.
Asked on whether his experiences of constitutional matters would help him in his new job, he noted that in both cases, the big question was the future of Europe.
“In the AFCO committee it was more about the institutional set-up, and in the environment committee, it is the sustainability of our economies, of our social systems and of course of our environmental behaviour,” he said, noting that these were two sides of the same coin.
According to Leinen, Europe should strive to maintain its leadership by helping to reach an ambitious deal in Copenhagen, but should shy away from making commitments if others do not follow. Energy and climate change policies are now ready for the implementation phase, stressed the German MEP, adding: “We have to fulfill our own promises and obligations.”
“The economic and financial crisis should not be a pretext to lower our ambitions. We have to stick to the energy and climate package that was decided in December, for our position in the negotiations but also for us,” he said.
Despite admitting that most recovery plans have not made huge shifts towards a low-carbon economy, Leinen nevertheless believes we are heading in the right direction.
“Sure, the balance sheet is not good because most money is not in sustainable development. There is still a big job to do,” he stressed, insisting that the EU assembly’s shift to the right will not hamper climate legislation.
“It is true that we have an ideological shift to the right, but politically I think that climate protection is fashionable as well for bourgeois society and for bigger parts of the industry. We have also shifted the acknowledgement and the interest of more businesses, which see the new climate package as a chance for profits, new investments and new markets,” he stressed.
“I am optimistic that we are at a turning point where they come along with us. I don’t think they are going to be in antagonism as before,” Leinen said.