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Connie Hedegaard

European Commissioner for Climate Action

Preparations for the Durban Climate Conference (28 November - 9 December 2011)

European Parliament Environment Committee debate

Brussels, 7 November 2011

Chairman, lieber Jo Leinen, dear Members,

It is a great pleasure to meet again with your Committee for an exchange of views. I know that, today, you are mainly interested in hearing more about the perspectives for the Durban climate conference, but let me start with a few remarks in the framework of our Structured Dialogue on the Commission's Work Programme. I would like to thank you for the very useful suggestions made by the Committee on the implementation of the 2011 Commission Work Programme as well as on your expectations for the 2012 programme, which the Commission will adopt next Tuesday and which President BARROSO will present, right after its adoption, in the plenary.

As I mentioned when we met last, I am committed to spare no efforts to ensure that the EU continues leading the fight against climate change, both with our internal and external policies.

This remains one of the priorities of the European Commission also for 2012 as President Barroso also highlighted in his recent State of the Union Speech. He said that [and I quote] "Sustainable jobs will come if we focus on innovation and new technologies, including green technologies. We must see that "green" and "growth" go together.

[2011 main achievements]

In this spirit, in 2011, the main achievements of our Climate Action policy have been the adoption by the Commission of the "2050 Roadmap towards a competitive low carbon economy" and the climate mainstreaming of the future EU budget .

As we had the opportunity to discuss the 2050 Roadmap at previous occasions, I will not go into further details. I do, however, follow with great interest your discussions in the context of the preparation of Chris Davies' report and look forward to Parliament's input, which hopefully will be a clear endorsement of our approach.

In its Communication on the next multi-annual financial framework, the Commission has decided to significantly step up the climate mainstreaming of the future EU budget, with a share of at least 20% of the total budget contributing to Climate Action. The Commission has thus sent a strong signal that the EU budget should be aligned with the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy and, in particular, the objective to prepare the transition to a low carbon economy. Our proposals on the structural funds, on agriculture and on infrastructure clearly reflect this ambition.

Furthermore, we have recently transmitted to Member States (and in parallel to the European Parliament for information) the long-awaited measure implementing the Fuel Quality Directive concerning a greenhouse gas methodology for fossil fuels. I know that many of you have taken a great interest in this file and I am sure that you are aware that the Commission has concluded to address all GHG-intensive unconventional oil feedstocks in a coherent way through specific default values, including values for oil shale and oil sands. Discussions are now taking place with Member States on this proposal, before it will be submitted to your committee for scrutiny.

Also implementing provisions of the Fuel Quality Directive, the Commission services are currently finalising work on an impact assessment and legislative proposals addressing emissions from Indirect Land Use Change of biofuels. I know that the proposal is long due and that we have taken more time than initially foreseen, but you will certainly agree that this is not an easy task and that we need to get this right. I think we have made some good progress over the last months and I hope that we will be able to adopt a proposal still this year.

Let me also briefly touch on the state of play on aviation's inclusion in the EU Emissions Trading System/ ETS.

A majority of the ICAO Council last week adopted a non-binding declaration urging the EU and its Member States to refrain from including non-EU airlines in our ETS. This may seem striking but actually there's little new about it – when it comes to climate change, ICAO has rarely been able to agree on much except talking – and unfortunately the talk tends to be more about what States do NOT want to do than what they want to do.

I'd like to remind you that the arguments put forward by the opponents are well known and were discussed at length already at the time of adoption, when the Commission and you as Parliament, together with the Council, passed the legislation with very large majorities. The opposition we see now has been voiced to a varying degree by the US and other third countries since 2005. But now that the deadline comes closer, they give it a try one more time.

That it continues is to a very large extent due to relentless lobbying which successfully has mobilised colleagues and aviation ministries across the globe.

But their arguments are weak. In terms of legality, the Advocate General's Opinion from 6 October concluded very clearly: It said that it is not true that our legislation is against the Chicago Convention; it is not true that it is not in accordance with the UNFCCC; it is not true that it is extra-territorial and it is not true that it is a tax. Point by point, on all major issues the opinion clearly supported our arguments.

Both the Transport and Environment Council have recently confirmed their support and the Member States are fully behind the Commission. The united EU position was also clear in the ICAO-Council, where Member States firmly defended the EU position and, after the vote, made a joint formal reservation.

The EU remains committed to work for global solutions and engage constructively with third countries during the implementation of this legislation.

[2012 main priorities]

Let me now briefly outline our priorities for next year.

Firstly, the proper and timely implementation of the climate and energy package will remain a key priority, in particular in view of the 3rd phase of the EU ETS starting in 2013.

Secondly, we are preparing several important initiatives in the field of climate action at EU level:

  • We will review the Regulations on CO2 from cars and vans. These pieces of legislation are essential to reduce transport emissions and steer innovation in this sector.

  • With regards to maritime emissions, while we have a clear preference for global action, we are initiating work to make a proposal if no international agreement has been approved by the end of 2011.

  • We intend to revise the F-gas legislation as a follow-up to the recently adopted report which highlights the wide scope for further cost-effective emission reductions in this sector.

  • Next year will also be important to preparing the ground for the adoption of the EU Adaptation Strategy foreseen in 2013.

Last, but not least, also in 2012, we need to continue to engage actively in the international negotiations to pursue our objective to agree a legally binding agreement in line with our 2°C objective.

[DURBAN Climate Change Conference]

My vision on the outcome of this conference coincides largely with what you have expressed in your Resolution and I would like to thank you for the hard work this Committee has put in preparing and adopting the motion for a resolution that we will debate in plenary next week.

Durban will be an important opportunity to continue progress, building on the successful outcome of the Copenhagen Accord and the Cancun Conference last year. However Durban won't be the end of the road. We trust that Durban can operationalise the decisions taken in Cancún, and address those issues that were left unsolved in Cancún.

One key issue that was left unresolved in Cancun is the question of the "legal form", which will be on the table again in Durban. The EU's goal remains an ambitious, comprehensive, legally-binding framework covering all Parties, as the best way to keep the global average temperature increase below 2°C.

Of course, the EU is attached to the multilateral, rules-based system that is the Kyoto Protocol. But a second commitment period with EU (almost) alone in it would cover only around 11% of global emissions. This cannot constitute "success" in Durban – what happens to the remaining 89% of global emissions? When and how will these countries be committing?

So the right question is not "Kyoto or not Kyoto" – what is at stake for Durban is precisely to go beyond the current Kyoto / non-Kyoto divide, and to ensure that all countries, developed and developing, commit to do their fair share as part of a global undertaking.

In this context, the EU is willing to consider a second Kyoto period, but only as part of a broader package where other major emitters are engaged in a broader framework, and where Kyoto rules are improved to ensure environmental integrity .

The middle ground solution we are putting forward for Durban is to agree on a clear roadmap and with a clear timeline to achieve a comprehensive, robust and legally binding framework with the participation of all major emitters, and building on the Kyoto architecture, as further improved with a set of rules to be agreed in Durban. We are actively engaging with our partners, both developed and developing countries, to see what steps in that direction they would be ready to take in Durban, and to promote a common, ambitious solution.

Another critical point for Durban is to operationalise and follow-up on the set of decisions we took in Cancún. For the EU, this includes a number of critical points relating to mitigation issues. This includes acknowledging the global insufficiency of current emission reduction pledges and urgently setting up a process to increase the level of ambition while improving the Kyoto rules for better environmental integrity.

Our partners also have demands, in particular funding for mitigation and adaptation, which we believe is an important part of a balanced package for Durban. In this context, we look forward to making the Green Climate Fund operational in Durban. We should also make progress on the identification of sources of finance for climate action, in order to progress towards the commitment to mobilise 100 billion dollar yearly by 2020, in the context of meaningful mitigation action by developing countries, and transparency in implementation.

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