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Connie Hedegaard

European Commissioner for Climate Action

Preparation of the Climate Change Conference (COP17) in Durban

European Parliament plenary debate on the preparation of the Climate Change Conference (COP 17) in Durban

Strasbourg, 15 November 2011


Thank you for this opportunity to discuss where we are heading for in Durban. Needless to say, the Commission is trying to do whatever it can through outreach, through bilateral contacts at all levels, through proposing draft texts and suggestions, and by trying to find ways forward to ensure that we make progress in Durban.

We all know that Durban is not going to deliver what we would like to see in Europe – the internationally binding deal. That is not because of Europe. It is because of others.

The Polish Presidency already mentioned many of the issues that we are pursuing like how to close the gap, as Mr Leinen said as his first point. It is extremely important in Durban to figure out how we can close the gap.

We are discussing a lot of technicalities, but are we actually reducing emissions? This is what is at stake. We should never forget that this must be the key issue, so I agree with Mr Leinen on making that the first point.

Accounting rules, finance, new market-based mechanisms, a lot of things must be implemented that were agreed in Copenhagen and which were agreed in Cancun.

But let me use this very limited time to talk a bit more in depth on one of the key issues that was not solved in Cancun last year: the question of the legal form of whatever we can agree in the future. That will of course be on the table in Durban.

The EU’s goal remains an ambitious, comprehensive, legally binding international framework covering all parties. It is and it remains the best way to keep the global temperature increase below 2°C. And let us be clear: the EU is in favour of the Kyoto Protocol. The EU has taken targets under the Kyoto Protocol. We have not only delivered on these targets; we are actually on a path to overshoot our targets.

We have built our own legislation up to 2020 in line with the Kyoto principles. So when it comes to Kyoto, Europe is not the problem. We are doing, and will continue to do, whatever we can to get as much of the Kyoto acquis and the rules established for the future.

Therefore, of course, Europe is willing to take a second commitment period, but as has already been mentioned, unfortunately not too many are following us there. Japan, Russia, Canada, who used to be members of the Kyoto family, have very clearly stated that they are not going to take a second commitment period.

Up till now, the Kyoto family has accounted for around one-third of global emissions. There is the possibility that after Durban the second commitment period family will account for only 15% of global emissions.

Nonetheless, Europe has said yes. We are open to taking a second commitment period, but because what matters to us is the climate, and because what matters to us are real emission reductions, we have also attached a condition. We say there are some issues concerning the environmental integrity, AAUs and LULUCF, but we also need to have this put into a context where, together with a second commitment period, we secure the bridge to the future, that others accept we must agree on a roadmap where other major emitters engage in a broader framework and where Kyoto rules are improved to ensure the environmental integrity.

That means we are trying to find middle ground. We are open to this second commitment period, but in the clear roadmap that we want, we also need to have a timeline. When will other major economies commit? And when will they commit in the same legal form as we do? That is going to be one of the main discussions in Durban.

As I said, we are not the problem there. We are the ones trying to secure our ambition. And it is fine for Europe to make the bridge to the future, together with Norway, Switzerland and a few others that will take a second commitment period. But it is also a legitimate question for Europe to ask: what is the point in making the bridge to the future if nobody will follow us into that future? If they are not ready now, then we need to know when they are ready. That is why the timeline is a key request for Europe.

I have spent my time explaining this because I think it is also key that others understand that Europe is ready and that Europe is not the problem. The problem are those who are not moving their position in order to deliver what must be delivered if Durban is not just to be about process, but about really achieving something that can improve the climate.

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