Dimas upbeat about EU-US climate change co-operation

Co-operation on market-based instruments is a “significant achievement” of EU-US talks on climate change, Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas has told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview.

  • EU-US climate change talks

Dimas is optimistic about the climate change talks recently held in Washington with the US administration: “We made it clear to the United States that we thought bilateral and regional cooperation was good. But we also need multilateral cooperation and it appears that they agree, which is different to the position they have taken until now.”

He says a technological agreement with the US is appreciated by both sides, but that this is “not enough” in the eyes of the Commission and that “further steps need to be taken”. “They agreed on this – a distinct improvement on their previous position,” he told EURACTIV. According to Dimas, the G8 summit will provide the appropriate forum to discuss the issue. “There, I will not be satisfied by a simple agreement on technology and research,” he said.

A group of EU and US high-level officials was reactivated during the visit to discuss issues such as energy-efficiency and renewable energies. “We hope to have a meeting before COP-11. The significant achievement is our co-operation on market-based instruments which indirectly implies cuts.”

  • REACH and impact assessments

After numerous impact studies and endless squabbling over the potential costs and benefits of REACH, EURACTIV asked Environment Commission Stavros Dimas about his views concerning impact assessments as a policy-making tool.

“Impact assessments are an important element, but sometimes you have other political targets,” he told EURACTIV. According to Dimas, the health and environmental benefits of REACH are very difficult to calculate and put into monetary terms. But he adds that, in terms of benefits, one must also factor in the positive effects in terms of product reputation and the first mover advantage. He also notes that impact assessments mean that downstream users are sure of the substances they are putting in their products, guaranteeing safety to their customers. “All these are benefits you cannot put into monetary terms,” he says.

  • Eco-innovations and the Lisbon strategy

Dimas says he is comfortable with the renewed Lisbon strategy and its increased focus on growth and jobs. With high unemployment rates and sluggish economic growth in some EU countries, the Environment Commissioner thinks it is “right” that Europe focuses on these objectives. “But not of course at the expense of the environment,” he assures. 

On the contrary, he asserts his belief that environmental policies are “absolutely essential for boosting competitiveness,” saying the combination of eco-innovations and technologies, together with energy-efficiency measures “will help European industry”. 

He is quick to point out that eco-industries have a 5% yearly increase in growth – “more than any other industry” and that the world market for eco-products currently totals 500 billion euros. “If the European industry moves ahead fast enough with certain eco-innovations, they will benefit from an increased market for these products,” he says.

  • Research and development in environment (FP7)

When asked why then so little is being earmarked for environmental R&D in the EU’s 7th framework programme for research (FP7), – 2.5 billion euros against 12 billion for ICT – Dimas counters: “I think the increase has been quite substantial – greater than in other sectors – although you will never be satisfied with the amount allocated.”

He concedes that the US is already taking the lead in developing climate-friendly technologies: “The Americans claim that they spend 5.8 billion dollars. I think that our figure will be about 3 billion euros”.

 

Read the full version of this interview

Multilateral talks on global climate change policy will officially kick-start in November 2005 at the COP-11 (Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change) meeting in Montreal. The discussions are being launched to plan for global climate change reduction strategies after 2012 and the end of the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol. The EU strategy on the issue is to try to persuade all major world emitters of greenhouse gases to sign up to a binding pollution-cutting scheme.

  • 16 - 17 May 2005: UN expert seminar on climate change, Bonn, Germany
  • 6-8 July 2005: G8 summit convenes in Gleneagles, Scotland
  • 28 November - 9 December 2005: conference of the parties to the UNFCC (COP-11), Montreal, Canada

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