After the failed Climate Summit of Copenhagen

At the climate summit in Copenhagen (7-18 December) an agreement must be concluded for the climate control. But the outlook for a real agreement were bleak from the outset. That means a very important responsibility for our country, because Belgium has the EU presidency in the second half of 2010.
At the climate conference in Bali (2007), a new global climate agreement was to follow the Kyoto agreement, which expires in 2012, in Copenhagen. As suggested in 2007, this agreement should contain measurable, reportable and verifiable commitments. A new agreement means more stringent reduction targets for rich countries and clear actions of the emerging countries to reduce their emissions. It also means concrete and reliable funding of efforts by rich countries to absorb the impact of climate change in developing countries. But in times of financial crisis, extra resources are very hard to find, as proved again at the EU summit on October 30.
Already in 1996, the EU committed itself to do whatever possible to avoid “the dangerous global warming”. This means that we should keep global warming under 2° Celsius, compared with the pre-industrialized era. This will cost humongous efforts. We are already at a global warming of 0,76°C. Scientist state that, if we still want to get a hold on the problem, the global emission should have its peak in 2015 and reduce drastically afterwards.
The intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that industrial countries are to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 25 – 40 % by 2020 and that emerging countries are to slow down their emissions. By 2050, global emissions are to be reduced by half over the 1990 levels. For the rich countries that is an emissions reduction of 80 to 95 percent. Over four decades, we must have a carbon neutral society.

Clear figures

“We have not even begun to solve the problem,” says Kirk Hamilton in the presentation of the World Bank Report 2010, Development and Climate Change. He supports his claim with an important figure: the world today still spends 150 billion U.S. dollars a year on subsidies to fossil fuels. While we know that we have to get rid off of those fossil fuels. Each day of delay is a lost century, because the CO2 that we emit today remains a century in the atmosphere. The road network that we design today, determines the mobility of the coming decades.
The choices we make today really do matter. We must act now, because we have to change and we have to change together. That is the message of the World Report. Jos Delbeke, European top official of the Directorate-General Environment, confirms this statement: “A policy making takes years, and then it is another five or ten years waiting for the impact of that policy to be measured. Postponement is not an option. “
One of the conditions for an agreement is a clear and reliable financial environment for developing countries. Different studies differ over the budget, but the EU agreed upon an annual sum of 100 billion euros by 2020. This is equivalent to the subsidies for fossil fuels. Part of that 100 billion euros must be paid by the developing countries themselves, one part must come from the emissions trading and an amount between 22 and 50 billion U.S. dollars must come from public funds. How much to be raised by the EU, remains unclear.
Both the ministers for environment, their colleagues in Economics and Finance (Ecofin) and the State Government did not agree on a specific budget by the end of October. The starting point would be that the EU would take one third of the 22 to 50 billion U.S. dollars in its account, in the hope that the U.S. will do the same.
Environmental NGOs believe that the EU should take 35 until 45 billion for its account from 2020, while the EU suggests between 2 and 15 billion euros. Germany is stubborn, because the country would have to pay twenty percent of the EU contribution. The burden sharing between the European countries is an issue. The proposal by the European Commission is that the contribution of each country will be determined by both the financial and other emissions. The Eastern European countries want their emissions levels not to be taken in account, because their economy is still very polluting and they still belong to the poorer countries. They do not want to pay “for Brazil and India”. The only thing maintained as an EU commitment, is working on a legally binding agreement in which the Copenhagen political framework is established.

The Eastern European position of Flanders

From the start, Belgium is in favor of a clear figure for the financing environment of developing countries. In his response to the parliamentary question of Tinne Van der Straeten of Groen! in preparation of the Ecofin meeting, Finance Minister Reynders confirmed that Belgium backs the figures of the European Commission. Reynders is tantamount to admitting that the estimate of 100 billion euros remains on the low side and should be regarded as a minimum threshold.
However, in a report by Ecofin and the European Environment in the Euro Politics magazine we read: “(…) although Belgium has taken this debate on the background the past ten years, Flanders – which supported the European climate financing plan during one year –was increasingly reluctant to the check it had to write.
“Several sources acknowledge that Flanders insisted in our discussions to the negotiations that the texts would explicitly state that” the specific situation of energy intensive countries must be taken into account. Flanders shares the view of Poland. Also last year, Flanders had that attitude, when negotiating on the European climate and energy package, where Belgium will get more revenue from the auctioning of emission rights, like the Eastern Bloc countries. And this while Flanders belongs to the wealthiest regions in the world.
The amounts listed for the climate funds of the developing countries look enormous, but are relative at the same time. The Federal Planning Bureau estimates that the annual contribution for 2020 in Belgium would be between 200 million and nearly 1 billion euros. This represents 0.1 percent of GDP or about 10 to 28 percent of the expected revenue from the auctioning of emission rights. The hurricanes that in recent months hit the Philippines, cost the country about 13.5 percent of GDP. Ten years ago In Bolivia El Niño took 7 percent of GDP. The price of climate disruption is much higher in the South.

Development funds and climate funds

Because global warming already is causing damage in the South and one can not wait until 2020, short-term financing support is also been negotiating: 5 to 7 billion per year between 2010 and 2013. The European Council also decided that Member States do not have to give compulsory contributions for this.
Bernarditas Muller, who leads the climate negotiations for the G77 and China group, indicated in a hearing in the European parliament that China already provides financial assistance to small island states in Southeast Asia and African countries facing the consequences of global warming. Therefore Developing countries would not want China being detached in the negotiations from the block of the G77, because this suggests a divide and rule policy.
Developing countries want the climate fund to come on top of existing funding arrangements and will not come from already existing development aid funds. At this moment, a vague phrase can be found in the negotiating text: “The Copenhagen Agreement may not compromise the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.” While noting “it is almost inevitable that environment and development funding will overlap and be complementary in some way “.
The Flemish North South Movement wants extra money on top of the 0.7 percent and an adapted policy for development to the new needs that climate change creates. Jean-Pierre De Leener of 11.11.11: “The 0.7 percent of GDP for development would remain federal. And the provinces should add 0.7 percent for climate. Climate is a regional matter in Belgium. ”

An effective climate policy

The EU wants 20 percent reduction off the 1990 emissions achieved by 2020 - and 30 percent “if other major polluters make similar efforts and if the fastest growing developing countries make efforts in relation to their responsibilities and opportunities”. But as we want to stay near the 2 ° C warming, reductions should be between 25 and 40 percent and the emission peaks must be achieved in 2015 and not in 2020.
In a discussion to adjust to that effect the negotiating text for the European Environment Council in October, representatives of the Brussels and the Walloon Region supported that proposal, but “other participants felt that it would be politically wise to change this agreed language so suddenly. Flanders is on the brake and does not seem to realize the urgency of the climate challenge.
The Flemish nor the federal policy is really working on developing a low carbon economy - the overarching objective of climate policy. Flemish Minister Schauvliege would rather buy emission credits abroad, then doing semething herself. “We can do a lot, but there’s a limit, otherwise we are not allowed anything, not even breathe,” she said in De Standaard on October 5.
And in June the Court of Audit was scathing about the federal policy. The Federal climate policy. Implementation of the Kyoto Protocol clearly states that there is no federal climate plan and that the federal climate policy is not evaluated. In eleven of the fifteen measures for emissions reduction, deficiencies are defined. Minister Magnette, responsible for Climate and Energy, said “that the report of the Audit Court reflects the current situation”.
In MO * 67 Magnette had already discussed difficulties in the Belgian climate policy: the excessive fragmentation, the inability to change anything to existing arrangements and the lack of control. This causes insufficient money flow on the purchase of emission rights. Which we should not have bought in the first place because we are way below our Kyoto standard due to this cycle of economic crisis. Magnette is working on a new climate law, but Flanders has called this “a matter for the state”. The adoption of such a new law will take some time.

Adjust ambitions

As Copenhagen is approaching, the pressure rises. Perhaps that was why minister Schauvliege sounded a little stronger on the Environment Commission of the Flemish Parliament in late October. There she said: “The sum of the percentage reduction of greenhouse gases as stated by Annex I countries, is currently not sufficient to meet the 2 ° C objective. I therefore fully support the call by the European Environment Council to the developed countries to come forward with more ambitious proposals for emission reductions and also appeal to the more advanced developing countries to set ambitious reduction measures. “And:” No undermining measurements should be created, allowing the reduction targets to fail.” The minister is right, and hopefully also the Belgian policy adapts to these criteria.
An ambitious attitude of Belgium and Flanders in the climate negotiations is essential and can make a difference to the eventual new agreement. Tracking the European environmental policy in Federal Belgium changes every six months. At present, the Brussels Minister of Environment Evelyne Huytebroeck of the Ecolo is the spokesman.
From early 2010, Joke Schauvliege is responsible of this task. She will perform that function eighteen months since Belgium has the EU Presidency in the second half of 2010 and the Minister monitors both in the six months before and the six months after the Presidency. Flemish Minister Schauvliege will also coordinate and hopefully lead the homework that the EU should make after Copenhagen.
That is not the first time. At the climate conference in The Hague in 2000 there was no agreement on ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. There was a special summit in Bonn (July 2001) and one in Marrakech (November 2001), both during the Belgian Presidency. When it became clear that the U.S. would not ratify the protocol, the Belgian delegation, along with EU Commissioner for Environment Margot Wallström, undertook a world tour to ensure that enough countries would ratify the Kyoto Protocol. And they succeeded. Once again our country awaits a challenge of global proportions. Failure will be charged heavily to Belgium and Flanders.

Maak MO* mee mogelijk.

Word proMO* net als 2886   andere lezers en maak MO* mee mogelijk. Zo blijven al onze verhalen gratis online beschikbaar voor iédereen.

Ik word proMO*    Ik doe liever een gift