Weeklog Kartika Liotard: CO2 reduction

24 May 2010

Weeklog Kartika Liotard: CO2 reduction

A lot of people consider the recent climate summit in Copenhagen a failure. A partial agreement was reached, but the conference proved unable to deliver real sustainability. The 192 countries present, rich and poor, developed and developing, turned out to be incapable of agreeing even what information they should be exchanging over how far they have got in reducing their CO2 emissions.

Kartika LiotardThe aim which everyone agrees on is the need to combat further warming of the earth. Because CO2 absorbs infra-red rays, the amount of the sun's heat reflected back into space is reduced. This is what is known as the greenhouse effect.

At a time when many politicians are having to deal with the problem of the euro's declining value, I was in Strasbourg in my capacity as environment coordinator for the European United Left, the SP's European Parliamentary group, in an informal meeting with European Environment Commissioner Connie Hedegaard. We were talking about another kind of value, that of the Earth. Hedegaard, a Danish conservative, was recently given special responsibility in Brussels for what to do about the greenhouse effect. In her previous job as a government minister she hosted the Copenhagen Conference on behalf of the Danish government. It was then that I heard for the first time from her that the European Commission had decided to raise the bar, and that we would need to reduce CO2 emissions not by 20%, but by 30%. This is the figure in the SP election manifesto and when I heard Hedegaard herself say it, my first reaction was, 'great, Brussels is on board'.

But in Brussels deeds and words live in two different worlds. Now we need to see how Hedegaard intends this 30% target to be achieved. Countries resisting must be dragged over the line, international hypocrites unmasked, empty promises avoided and doubters given a last push in the right direction.

It will require tact and diplomacy not to upset powerful countries such as the United States, which on balance don't have much time for the environment. And you must avoid laying the blame at the door of poor countries which are much less polluting per inhabitant than, for example, the EU or the US. The reasons why things went wrong in Copenhagen last December are all to do with the process adopted, and with respect. Developing countries are not willing to be trampled over.

That's why I urged Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard to take into account, in renewed international negotiations and debates, the importance of simple good manners in regard to the way in which poorer countries are treated, to avoid making them feel as if they are having their toes trodden on. Because in the end this is all about preserving the value of our Earth. And we can only do that by working together.

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