17 June, 2007
I promised to come back to the Transatlantic session held in the EU’s Green Week.
This session, organised by Brussels think-tank Friends of Europe, had two parts: one on a possible Transatlantic joint agenda to tackle climate change and one on the policies of biofuels. I only attended the first part which was all in all rather disappointing with the American speakers in Washington being way too defensive and too humble, a fact I tried to underline during the Q&A round afterwards.
As I have a bit more time and place here to develop my arguments, let me try to explain the points that I made on Thursday.
It is generally believed that the EU is the global “leader” in terms of fighting climate change. It can, of course, not be denied that the EU has fought hard to get the Kyoto Protocol ratified and that it has put in place the world’s most comprehensive emissions trading system for carbon. Nevertheless, I would like to question whether these constant claims of being the “world leader” are not counterproductive in the long term. In negotiations, no adversary wants to hear the argument all the time that “we are the good ones, and you are the baddies”.
Moreover, I think the “leadership” claim is not even correct. It all depends from what point of view you look at the issue. Yes the European rhetoric about climate change is much louder but what about real actions where it really matters. Look at what Governor Schwarzenegger is doing in California and what Michael Bloomberg gas planned for New York. In some ways, what happens in some of the US states and cities is as good if not sometimes even better than what we are doing in Europe.
The Americans are also more aware of the (military) security aspects of the climate change challenge. The recent report by 11 retired army chiefs published by the CNA Corporation is the best proof that the analysis of the problem has an extra dimension in the US which is seriously lacking in Brussels.
That has to do with the fact that in the US the climate change debate is connected to another debate on the future of oil and gas reserves (the “peak oil” debate). The 2005 Hirsch report on the peaking of world oil production and the 2007 GAO report on crude oil are having a major influence on climate change/energy thinking in the US. When will the Commission see the need to undertake a similar “peak oil” report for Europe’s security strategy? Let’s hope the MEPs in the newly elected climate change committee will at least read these US reports.Author : Willy De Backer