All roads should lead to Copenhagen? By Margot Wallström – Vice President of the European Commission

Margot Wallström, vice-présidente de la Commission chargée de la Communication est la première commissaire européenne à avoir créé un blog pour communiquer avec les citoyens. Dans la Commission Prodi (1999-2004), elle a joué un rôle dans la mise en œuvre du protocole de Kyoto. Nous lui sommes reconnaissants de nous confier ce témoignage qui résume son analyse, ses espoirs et ses craintes à l »aube de la conférence des Nations Unies sur le climat.

2009 will be a historic year in the fight against climate change. It will be the year when the international community joined efforts to prevent climate change from reaching dangerous levels and causing large scale human suffering. Or not.
With the Kyoto Protocol due to expire at the end of 2012, world leaders need to agree on a follow-up agreement at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen this week. However, these same leaders seem to be more inclined to discuss nitty-gritty details on carbon credits, carbon trading and emissions targets, who is responsible, who should and should not pay. It seems like the real problem – climate change – has been lost in translation and become a diplomatic negotiation game, plagued by inertia. If political leadership is an essential element for the outcome of the climate summit, our ability to seal a deal that respects burden sharing and solidarity depends on the level of involvement of the citizens. The strongest shoulders should carry the greatest burden.
While the current global CO2 emissions are principally the legacy of the developed countries, the developing countries are those who suffer the most from the impact of climate change. Despite this, funding from rich countries to help the poor and vulnerable adapt to and fight climate change is not even 1 percent of what is needed (currently available via the levy on the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM mechanism). This glaring injustice must be addressed at Copenhagen.
The EU objective is clear: the final outcome of the climate negotiations should be a comprehensive, ambitious, fair, science-based and legally binding international treaty aimed at ensuring keeping global warming under 2°C.
Despite some recent progress, it seems the world leaders will not have sufficient time to agree to a Treaty in Copenhagen. But we do need an agreement that will allow us to conclude such a legally binding treaty in the first six months after Copenhagen. We must therefore keep up the pressure!
What is sometimes more of an object of political bargaining and negotiation for decision makers has been shown to be a matter of great concern for citizens. Last week, the European Commission published a public opinion survey (Eurobarometer) on « European’s attitudes towards climate change » which confirms that a large majority of citizens, two thirds, take climate change very seriously and consider it to be one of the most serious problems the world is facing today. They also believe that more should be done to fight global warming and that measures to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change can contribute positively to economic growth. This confirms our belief that the fight against climate change must remain our top priority in every policy area. Until 2020, the EU Member States committed themselves to reduce carbon emissions by 20%, to increase the use of renewable energies by 20% and to cut energy consumption by 20%, compared to the 1990 levels. However, to globally reduce the emission levels, we need to get the biggest emitters on board: China and the USA.
On the way to Copenhagen, and beyond, surveys like the recent Eurobarometer are important components in EU policy-making. But there are a lot more tools that help us to listen to citizens’ concerns, especially on the internet. I am delighted to see that the blogosphere, in the last couple of months, experienced an unprecedented burst of discussions on climate change and civil society campaigns addressing the most urgent issues that have to be dealt with in Copenhagen. More than ever, the fight against climate change is in the public consciousness.
One example of participation and commitment of citizens to the fight against climate change is the « The Road to Copenhagen » initiative which, over the last two years, allowed citizens to contribute to the UN negotiation process for a post-2012 climate change agreement. Wikis and forums invited lively debates which will be concluded on the 9 December in Malmö, Sweden, when I will deliver a Communiqué together with Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, and Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, to the UNFCCC Secretariat (United nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in order to make sure the ideas and initiatives taken by citizens will be heard by those negotiating the deal in Copenhagen.
The internet provides a fantastic platform for citizens to make a difference. Not only musicians, but also young Europeans can act as ambassadors for the fight against climate change, such as in the « Play to Stop – Europe for Climate » initiative launched by the EU and MTV. « Climate and Energy » has also been one of the hottest topics discussed on the EU forum « Debate Europe » and I receive a lot of comments on climate change on my personal blog.
I believe climate change is about people. People cause it. And people will be affected by it. That’s why people have to be heard before a deal in Copenhagen is sealed by the world leaders. The online activities show that the internet has become part of the political sphere. Bloggers and users all around the world are able to exert pressure on the negotiators in Copenhagen which I truly welcome. At the same time, the worldwide debate helps to raise the awareness of climate change since its effects can only be mitigated if we all contribute to fighting it – at home, at work, in schools and universities, every day. Hopefully 2009 will go down in history as a turning point in the battle against environmental degradation and global warming. And as an important step on the path to sustainable development. The work will not be finished in Copenhagen, it is only the beginning.
Margot Wallström

Vice President of the European Commission

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