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Connie Hedegaard

European Commissioner for Climate Action

European Parliament plenary debate on the outcome of the Cancún Climate Conference

European Parliament plenary debate on the outcome of the Cancún Climate Conference

Strabourg, 14 December 2010

Mr President, Honourable Members,

I think it is fair to say that we in the European Union went to Cancún with the fear that we risked getting nothing. Of course we also went there with the very strong desire to ensure that this would not be the case and that we actually get a substantial and balanced package. As you all know now, that is what we got.

This means that the multilateral process is alive. More than that, it is relatively well and, as it could have been dead by now, that in itself is important. I think that all those who were there also felt relief when the final deal was done. It was as though the whole international community simply wanted this to happen and wanted to prove that of course we need multilateralism when we are fighting global challenges.

I also think that it is important to say that what we achieved in Cancún was not just about saving the process. It was more than that. We wanted to save the process. We wanted to save the prospect of having a global deal and we wanted to ensure that we also get something substantial done in Cancún. We worked very hard, together with the Mexican presidency. We worked very closely with them and gave them our full support from the very beginning. I must say that the Mexicans fully deserve all the credit they have been given; they have done excellent work.

A year ago, we took the first steps in Copenhagen. I think that, if we had met two or three days after Copenhagen was over, few of us would have thought that, one year later, all the elements of the Copenhagen Accord would be included in a binding UN agreement. That is really good.

But in Cancún we also took new steps. We strengthened the international climate regime with new institutions and new funds.

I would like to stress three elements that were particularly important to the European Union in the end game – which was very much Friday, as some of those present will recall.

We had three priorities which we wanted to be reflected in the result. We wanted recognition of the gap between the emission reduction pledges of the Copenhagen Accord now being anchored in the UN text and the challenge of keeping global warming below 2°C. It was very important to state the obvious: that we are not there yet. We also very much wanted to have increased transparency, through measuring, reporting and verification (MRV) and international consultation and analysis (ICA). Thirdly, we wanted the possibility of a future legal framework for the period beyond 2012 to be reflected in the text.

On all three points we made progress. For the first time, the 2°C objective is acknowledged in a UN document, the pledges are anchored and the obvious has been stated, namely that countries need to do more for the world to stay below the 2°C rise. We also started a process to strengthen transparency and, as we said in Cancún, it is not enough just to say that you are in favour of increased transparency. What does that mean? It is very important that the text now contains several pages spelling out exactly what the political guidance for MRV and ICA would be.

That is very important and I would like to add one further point. I think that it is not just of interest to the international climate negotiations that, for instance, a country like China has now accepted international consultation and analysis. I think that is also an important signal that reaches far beyond the climate negotiations. This was actually a very important and significant step forward.

Finally, we managed to keep open the discussion about the Kyoto Protocol and a future legal outcome. I think that, if we had not had the prospect of having a second commitment period, it is very likely that the process would have been dead by now.

Having said these positive things, this does not mean that we have a very easy year ahead of us. We have a long and challenging journey to make. We saw in Cancún how slow the process is. When you take steps together in the UN context it is slow by definition, so no one should believe that the road to South Africa is going to be an easy one. The year ahead of us is a very challenging one. The only thing I would say at this stage is that Europe will do whatever we can to continue to play this very constructive role and to try to build bridges between different points of view, while bearing our own priorities very much in mind.

I think it is very important now that everybody goes back home and starts to do things in their own nation, in their own region and in their own municipality. All must now take action, as we are doing in Europe. We have our 2020 target and we have also initiated the discussion about how we could eventually increase our ambitions in the short term. As you know, in the spring the Commission will present a strategy for completing the transition to a low-carbon economy by 2050. That strategy will also include a 2030 objective.

Let me finish with a word about the European Union in the climate change conference. I would like to highlight that we actually managed to speak with one voice. We were discussing earlier in this forum how important that is. The Commission, the Presidency and the 27 Member States ensured that the European Union played its part on the world stage. I am pleased to say that there was excellent cooperation between Minister Schauvliege and her team and my team from the Commission. I would like to thank Joke Schauvliege very much for her contribution towards this result.

Last, but of course not least, I would very much like to thank the Parliament delegation. I think that they contributed a great deal towards conveying the message that Europe really was speaking with one voice. I would particularly like to thank the Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, Jo Leinen. I think that it was crucial that, when members of the delegation were addressed and asked about the European position, they all tried to stick to the common denominator. I think that contributed a lot to the general impression that this time Europe actually was speaking with one voice. Thank you very much for that.

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