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SPEECH/ 09/458

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Speech to the Global Editors' Forum : From Kyoto to Copenhagen

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Global Editors' Forum

Copenhagen, 9 October 2009

Prime Minister Rasmussen, my friend Kofi Annan, ladies and gentlemen.

I commend both the Danish Government and Project Syndicate for this excellent initiative. If we get the message wrong, we reduce our chances of success at Copenhagen. So this evening I want not only to get over Europe's case in these talks, but what this negotiation is fundamentally about and what we need to do, in Ban Ki-Moon's phrase, to seal the deal. I want to convey that despite our recent efforts in New York, Pittsburgh and in Bangkok, I remain very worried by the prospects at this stage of the negotiations, where we are dangerously close to deadlock.

Briefly, however, why is success in Copenhagen so important? Firstly, because the science is clear. Continuing with business as usual almost certainly means dangerous, perhaps catastrophic, climate change during the course of this century. So we need an agreement based on the science that limits average global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius. Which means in turn that global emissions of greenhouse gases will need to peak before 2020, and then, by 2050, to be reduced by at least half their 1990 levels.

To judge from the press coverage of the run-up to Copenhagen, this part of the message is getting over. I cannot open a newspaper or turn on the television without seeing images of collapsing icebergs, polar bears, or de-forestation. The people on this planet increasingly understand the scale of the problem.

And of course, it is an important moral issue:

  • firstly in a development context where developing countries as Kofi Annan has said so eloquently will bear the brunt of climate change, while having the least means of tackling it;

  • and secondly, in an inter-generational context. We simply have no right to impose the pain and the cost of climate change on future generations. Moreover, Nick Stern tells us, definitively, that tackling climate change later will cost much more than doing it now.

But I want to say to you today that understanding the moral context is necessary but not sufficient. My sense from talking to people all over the world about this is that they understand why we have to act and they want to hear about solutions. But those of us with political responsibility have not yet, collectively, convinced them that we have the necessary political will to deliver solutions in line with economic growth and sustainable development.

Indeed, if I may say so, media coverage of the negotiations reflects that. For the most part, it is generated by environment correspondents. I would also like to see your business correspondents, as well as your political reporters, taking on this issue.

But I recognise it's our job to get the message right. My goal is also to establish the business case for tackling climate change.

For it is not just a moral imperative: it is also an immense economic opportunity.

Building the low-carbon economy that we need will unleash a surge of innovation, investment and jobs in clean technologies and products. Take renewable energy, for example, where Europe has committed to doubling its share to 20% by 2020. We think this will generate some 90 billion euros of additional investment in renewables, and some 700,000 new jobs, and reduce our oil and gas import bill by around 45 billion euros a year by 2020.

But we in Europe – like the rest of the world - will have to be strategic about our investment in order to compete. Just this week, we published our paper on financing strategic energy technologies – the SET-plan – which shows that current investment in the priority energy technologies needs to increase from 3 to 8 billion euros a year in order to remain competitive. There is going to be a lot of healthy low carbon competition in the next couple of decades and Europe must be ready.

The Commission is determined to continue the path to a low carbon economy – via the SET plan, via energy efficiency, via clean car technology, via carbon capture and storage and via the decarbonising of our electricity supply and our transport sector.

The message I have for you today is that green growth is not a pipe dream. It’s the reality. We can do it, and in concrete terms, we are doing it, now, in Europe. Our emissions per capita are now less than half those of the US at the same level of output. Our economy is already moving to a new paradigm. You only have to drive in from the airport here in Copenhagen to see how Denmark has led by example on wind power.

So if action against climate change is already happening, I hear you say, why do we need Copenhagen at all?

First, because globally, we have to avoid a free rider problem: the mistaken view that countries can stand back while others take the brunt of emissions reduction. This is a mistake: not just because they will miss out on the wave of green growth, not just because this risks the spectre of green protectionism, and not just because it threatens a deal in Copenhagen.

Most of all, it is a mistake because we are all in this together. No one country or group of countries can make sufficient emissions reduction to solve the problem.

I am often told by developing countries that we, the industrialised world, are responsible for climate change. My response is: you’re right. But correctly assigning responsibility for the past doesn’t address the future. If the industrialized world reduced its emissions to zero today, and if the developing countries continued with business as usual, we would still reach the dangerous level of 650 ppm (parts per million) by 2050.

A truly global deal must commit everyone at some level. But please remember that we are not asking the same commitments from developing countries. Developed countries have to put on the table binding economy-wide targets for CO2 reduction. We must strive to achieve the necessary, collective 25-40% reductions by 2020. This is why the European Union has put on the table a unilateral 20% reduction, but rising to 30% if the other major emitters contribute their share to an ambitious global deal here in this city in December. We need everyone in this negotiation to table offers at the outer limits of their political constraints – to be as ambitious as they can.

Developing countries, especially the economically advanced amongst them, should commit to the actions they are ready to take to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. They do not need to deliver binding targets necessarily, but we need them to “translate” their domestic actions into an overall agreement.

In addition, we in the developed world have to be ready to put money on the table in Copenhagen, not just for adaptation to climate change, but to help finance the additional mitigation effort pursued by developing countries. Our estimate in the European Commission is that by 2020, developing countries will need roughly an additional 100 billion euros a year to tackle climate change. Some of this will be financed by developing countries themselves, particularly the advanced emerging economies, and the biggest share should come from the carbon market, if we have the courage to set up a robust global cap and trade scheme in the coming decade.

But some will need to come in flows of public finance from the developed to the developing world. And the EU will have to be ready to pay its share. Climate change is not just an environmental issue, but is also a development priority.

So we need to be ready for a significant transfer in the medium term – and in the short term, we should also look at "start up" funding for developing countries even as early as next year.

Ladies and gentlemen.

We have two short months to go until Copenhagen – less than 60 days, and in fact there is just one more week of negotiation, in Barcelona in November. We still have a long way to go to achieve success, and it is clear that leaders are going to carry their share of the load in making progress.

The way ahead is hard, but we cannot be distracted by talk of Plan B – or we will end up with Plan F – for failure. Indeed, as one NGO said recently, there is no Plan B as we have no Planet B!

The meeting here in Copenhagen represents the best chance, collectively, to shift trajectory, onto a track which will keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

We know we have to do it - for our children and all the future generations on this planet.

We know it is in our interests to do it – our own, direct, short and long term, economic interests.

We know we can do it.

So – we'd better do it, here in Copenhagen, here in December.

Thank you.

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