Europe bears responsibility for Copenhagen's failure

By Shen Xiaoquan
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, December 31, 2009
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After two weeks exhausting and chaotic negotiations, the United Nations Climate Change Conference finally ended on December 19 and achieved a non-legally binding agreement "Copenhagen Accord." Taking a panoramic view of the situation, it's not hard to see that European countries were very active during the conference, trying to play several roles.

They were direct participants of climate negotiations, but were trying to play the role of mediators; they are western developed countries, but put themselves in the position of spokesperson for developing countries; they are the "obligor" of greenhouse gas emissions, but became a "pioneer" to address climate change issues. Although European countries took some positive action to fight climate change, they should still take responsibility for the overall failure of the conference.

Industrial revolution started in Europe and had long term benefits for the region. However, increasing carbon dioxide emissions for the duration of a 200 year period has had a negative impact on the worldwide climate. In order to play down their mistakes and promote their own efforts regarding climate change, European countries were very active during the conference. Some European countries took steps to attract worldwide attention before the Copenhagen Conference. For example, the European Union made a series of 20 percent targets in March 2008, its member states pledged to cut their emissions by 20 percent, increase the share of renewable energy in energy consumption to 20 percent and reduce the consumption of fossil fuel energy by 20 percent by 2020. The EU also declared it would spend 2-15 billion Euros every year to give assistance to developing countries between 2013 and 2020.

The United States refused to sign the "Kyoto Protocol" and was unwilling to agree on a concrete target of emission reductions. In contrast the EU's attitude was positive. On December 11, the EU pledged 7.2 billion euro to aid developing countries to deal with climate change issue between 2010 and 2012. It also said it would raise the 20 percent emission reduction target to 30 percent. With these positive actions, Europe won the bargaining chips in Copenhagen conference.

When the Copenhagen Conference opened, European countries tried to dominate the meeting because they knew developing countries were in the majority. European countries had the advantage of the venue as it was in the capital of Denmark, an important member of EU. A draft "Danish Text", an attempt to guide negotiations and benefit wealthier nations, was leaked at the very beginning of the conference. The draft was overruled by the majority. Another bill was leaked at the end of the conference but it also received criticism from the international community.

Another strategy of European countries was to spread "environment diplomacy" worldwide to gain support. France's actions in particular attracted attention. France and Brazil have agreed to sign the so-called France-Brazil alliance, a document on climate issues, a month before the Copenhagen Conference. Then French President Sarkozy attended the Amazon-France climate summit, discussing ecological protection issues of the Amazon River Basin. This was followed by France and the UK establishing a 30 billion dollar global environmental protection foundation, to aid poor countries in dealing with climate problems.

In early December, France made a suggestion to UN chief Ban Ki-moon of creating a "global environment organization" and "financial transactions tax", the latter document was aimed specifically at climate change. Sarkozy had a meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister and Africa's chief negotiator Meles Zenawi and drew up a joint statement on climate issues. Sarkozy also called on the international community to provide assistance to protect the Congo basin forest. After discussions with Latin American and African countries, France asked the international community to aid most undeveloped countries. France once suggested a union including the European Union, Africa and newly developing countries represented by Brazil, to cope with the United States, China and India, who are big emitters. All these events show that France played a role of spokesperson of the third world countries.

The reason that the EU highlighted "the poorest countries" and "small island countries" as their aid objects was their desire to polarize developing countries. The European Union even tried to blame some newly developing nations by exploiting some island countries' worries on climate change.

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