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SPEECH/ 09/497

Margot Wallstr ő m

Vice-President of the European Commission

Europe is listening on Climate Change

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED


European Development Days

24 October 2009, Stockholm

Your excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

It was a grey and rainy Monday afternoon a couple of months ago in Gothenburg. Nearly 200 young people mostly students, gathered to talk about climate change. A knowledgeable, engaged debate – also about fears and worries – took place. At the very end, a young woman asked: “but what more can we do ? Tell us how we can influence the leaders of the world to take the right decisions in Copenhagen. It is our future they will decide!”

Now, it is time to move from words to deeds. As Wangari Maathai said: “Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing. You are just talking.”

From women in Liberia, I learnt that they might not know about the scientific concept of climate change, but they had noticed that something was different. The seasons were changing and they did no longer know when to sow their crops. It was getting more and more difficult to put food on the table.

Or as Constance in Uganda says:

“I request that developed countries reduce emissions so that us poor peasants in Uganda can look forward to rains to plants our crops and so we don’t have to face floods that wash away our crops, destroy our houses, increase diseases, and stop our children from attending schools. That’s all I am asking for on behalf of my fellow villagers.”

Through the Development Days, Europe is giving a platform to all these voices – the voices of climate change witnesses, the voices of our future generations, and particularly the voices of women, in addition to the voices of our world leaders. The road to Copenhagen must be an inclusive and transparent process. We want to say that Europe is listening to all these concerns. We want to make sure all these voices are heard and projected forward.

Because there are no winners and losers in this deal; we are all winners of a fair deal, or all losers of a bad deal. There is no Plan B, because there is no Planet B. While we recognise that developed countries, and European in particular, are responsible for climate change, only assigning responsibilities for the past doesn’t address the future. A global deal is needed, including actions from the developed and developing world! As Honorable Benjamin Mkapa said yesterday, developing countries must also do their share, by tackling issues such as waste management and deforestation, as well as contribute towards a mentality change through more and better education.

And we should not only talk about a problem, a burden and a cost, but also think about the great opportunities that addressing climate change offers. First of all, a healthier, cleaner and fairer world for all is certainly a good goal to work towards! Secondly, the shift towards building a global low-carbon society, throws up huge economic opportunities!

If we think it is expensive to act today, wait until you see the price tag tomorrow!

Climate change is not only an environmental issue, but also a development priority. Climate change poses a serious risk to poverty reduction and threatens to undo decades of development efforts towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It also affects democratic governance, political stability and security.

Climate change will require developing differently and therefore rethinking development strategies. And mitigating climate change and adapting to its consequences require considerable political will and commitment to move towards sustainable development. The call for immediate action is clear.

The European Union’s unilateral commitment to cut our emissions to at least 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, the adoption of a climate and energy package with binding measures, our ongoing energy efficiency programme, and the Global Climate Change Alliance – all these testify to our determination to fight climate change and make sustainable development a reality.

What is needed now is a roadmap to sustainable development on a global scale. This is what Copenhagen must provide - in the shape of an ambitious, fair and binding global agreement covering the period after 2012.

As our own contribution to a global and comprehensive agreement, the European Union has always made clear that we will scale up our emissions reduction target for 2020 from 20 to 30% – provided that other major players do their fair share too.

In practice this means we are looking to other developed countries to commit to emission reductions that are comparable, though not necessarily identical, to ours. But we are not asking the same commitments from developing countries. These nations should make adequate contributions to the global effort, according to their responsibilities and respective capabilities, making use of a balanced combination of criteria to set developed country targets. The bottom line is that richer countries should contribute more towards reducing domestic emissions (capability to pay); countries with higher reduction potential should contribute more towards overall reductions (mitigation potential); and that we must take into account emission reductions in the past (domestic early action), and the effect on significantly increasing populations on emissions (population trend and total emissions).

But developing countries will need substantial financial and technological assistance from the industrialised world. This is necessary to help them both to limit their emissions, not least those caused by deforestation in tropical countries, and to strengthen their resilience to climate change through adaptation.

The European Commission has recently come up with its proposals on climate finance. Our estimate is that by 2020, developing countries will need roughly 100 billion euros a year to tackle climate change. Some of this will be financed by developing countries themselves, particularly the advanced emerging economies. The biggest share should come from the carbon market, if we manage 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. We also recognise the need for fast-start funding between 2010 and 2012 to respond to urgent needs for the most vulnerable developing countries, prior to the establishment of a financial architecture under a Copenhagen agreement.

As climate change imposes an additional burden on developing countries, finance provided for adaptation and mitigation should not come at the expense of traditional development finance. We have the EU citizens' support for this. According to the latest Eurobarometer, despite the economic crisis, 72% of them are in favour of honouring or going beyond existing aid commitments to the developing world.

The European Council next week should deliver clear messages on financing. But it can be expected that the final amount needed, which of course depends on what there is to be financed, will be negotiated up to the very end of the Copenhagen Conference.

But our responsibility doesn’t start or stop with money. In Copenhagen we have a moral obligation to deliver “climate justice”, which means a global agreement based on social and development needs, burden sharing and the “polluter pay’s principle”.

It also means thinking beyond Copenhagen by creating the sustainable foundations for our common future.

If we have the courage to think beyond Copenhagen, if we manage to bring the future and the rest of the world into the picture, then a new global agreement could lay the foundations for a truly sustainable development in the 21 st century. Sustainable not only in environmental but also in economic and social terms.

Development cannot be sustainable unless it is equitable – and that means promoting human rights and democracy. It means ensuring peace, gender equality and social justice. It means working for fairer world trade and remodelling our global financial systems so that they serve people rather than markets.

To conclude. We have only 6 weeks to go until the Copenhagen conference, and only one more week of negotiation, in Barcelona beginning of next month.

I continue to believe that we will reach our objective. But the ambition level and the pace of the discussions must urgently be raised. The developed world needs to show leadership and come forward with ambitious emission reduction targets and adequate funding, but the developing world must also follow.

I hope Wangari Maathai forgives us for all the talking today – European Development Days is an event for important discussions. But now it is time to move from words to deeds!

Some say a deal in Copenhagen is impossible. But as Nelson Mandela put it: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Thank you.


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