Climate Action Commissioner: Europe remains the front-runner on climate protection | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 06.05.2010
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Climate Action Commissioner: Europe remains the front-runner on climate protection

The EU's first Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard tells Deutsche Welle that Europe wants to continue leading the way in fighting climate change. It will continue to push for a robust and binding global treaty.

Connie Hedegaard

Hedegaard was previously Denmark's climate minister

DW: The highest-level gathering of politicians on climate change since the Copenhagen summit took place near Bonn earlier this week. How did you find the Petersberg Climate Dialogue?

Connie Hedegaard: Well, I think there was a very constructive atmosphere. We have seen that before. So I think that one of the messages that must come through from this conference is that now ministers really must take care that the same constructive spirit trickles down to negotiators. That's one of the dilemmas right now. Politicians seem to be very constructive. But then when negotiators meet, it seems very much like they are back on the old track.

Developing countries consistently call upon the historic responsibility of industrial nations in climate change action. Do you think the major industrial countries will move?

All developed countries know that their credibility really hangs on the fact whether they deliver on their promises - not just with words but actions.

The German environment minister Norbert Roettgen is crusading for the European Union to increase its reduction of climate damaging carbon dioxide emissions from 20 to 30 percent. How do you view this goal?

Well, Europe has said a long time ago that we are ready to go to 30 percent - provided others also give some substantial targets. Right now in the Commission, we are analyzing exactly what it would take for Europe if we had to go to 30 percent. That is a communicational report that we will send out by the end of this month. So the European discussion on this is progressing.

Greece needs international support to avoid bankruptcy. Other EU countries are also suffering from financial difficulties and are faced with mountains of debt. Is Europe still the climate pioneer?

Had it not been for Europe, then climate change would not have come to the top of the political agenda. It's due to European involvement, it's due to the fact that we pushed also through all the Bush years [under US President George W Bush] when not so many other countries thought this was an important issue. It's also due to the fact that Europe so far is the region that has done the most and has taken the toughest burden under the Kyoto Protocol up to 2020. So we have not just been talking, we have actually in our actions shown that we are the front-runner and we intend to continue to be that.

Nothing indicates that a new agreement will be reached at the next climate summit in Cancun. Wouldn't it be time at least to extend the Kyoto Protocol?

What is important to Europe is that: yes, we could continue with Kyoto. But how much would that help if only 30 percent of the world's emissions will be a part of Kyoto? Then everyone can see that Kyoto will not be enough. That's why we must find a system whereby the US, the Chinese, the Indians, the Brazilians and others would be part of the future set-up.

Could it still happen that the entire project of a global climate protection treaty fails or that the negotiations break up into groups who follow their own interests?

That's a theoretical question and I hope not. I have invested years in trying to avoid that. That's the reason why we must have an international agreement. That's why it's still an important priority for the European Union.

Interview: Sandra Petersmann / sac
Editor: Anke Rasper

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