From Partnership to Leadership: Transatlantic Solutions for a Low Carbon Economy - Opening Remarks

October 15, 2009
Opening remarks by Ralf Fücks
From Partnership to Leadership: Transatlantic Solutions for a Low Carbon Economy
Washington, Oct. 6, 2009

Opening remarks by Ralf Fücks

Europe should recognize the U.S. coming on board finally with relatively ambitious 2020 targets (compared to the status quo), but has to push for further acceleration on efforts of the U.S.

  • It is encouraging to see all the moves of the US in climate and energy policies, both on the state level as on the federal level. Despite all the constraints, especially in the Senate, this is a change of paradigm in comparison to the last 10 years, and we have no doubts concerning the commitment of the President and his team to ambitious climate targets.

  • Most of the informed observers in Europe applaud these efforts and the level of ambition seen in the Waxman-Markey bill. Some argue it is not enough. That’s true with regard to climate science and the degree of greenhouse-gas-emissions that have to take place over the next ten years. 2020 should be the latest date for a global turn around from rising to shrinking emissions.

  • But at the same time it is true, that it seems impossible for the U.S. to make up for all the sins of a former administration in a very short term. We do recognize that the legislation being debated in Congress is serious in its ambition to reduce emissions by 2020 compared to the status quo. Therefore, we have to deal with a gap between science based goals and political realities.

  • Of course, the EU should lobby for as much as possible. The world simply cannot accept a non-sufficient outcome from Copenhagen. That would sideline scientific findings as the basis for discussion, undermine European domestic efforts, and give other industrialized countries as well as emerging powers an all too easy cover for their reluctance to move forward. If the high industrialized countries fail to deliver in Copenhagen, they would undermine any credibility in the eyes of the developing world.

  • The European Union should be frank: Call a low figure a low figure; hold on to the plus 2 degree Celsius target; say that the contribution of the U.S. (and others) must increase; demand a steeper midterm reduction curve because of the slow beginning; and ask for a quid pro quo.

    If the Obama government wants the EU to accept a lower-than-IPCC emissions reduction by 2020 in the U.S., it should be willing to offer more on the other issues that will be on the table in Copenhagen, particular with regard to funds for adaptation and technology transfer to poor countries.

  • Over the last days we heard a lot of concern that the US may not be ready to join a comprehensive climate agreement until December, due to the overload of domestic and international heavyweights the administration has to lift. We know that the auspices of having a final vote on climate legislation in the Senate over the next two month are lousy, and it’s obvious that the administration won’t be ready to sign binding obligations without having built a reliable political majority at home. We don’t like that message, but we can’t ignore it.

    Nobody should be interested in creating a deadlock in Copenhagen that could lead to a breakdown of the negotiation process. The US must be part of a Post-Kyoto-Agreement, otherwise it will not happen. Washington’s responsibility for success or failure is huge. There may be some space for compromise on the timeline for striking a final deal and on modeling the reduction curve of US-emissions. But it would be disastrous if the US would depart from the goal to have a new international agreement with binding obligations in succession to the Kyoto-Protocol. This would undermine the whole process and damage the authority of the administration on a global scale.


Download the entire paper as a pdf-file (6 pages, 128 kB)

Ralf Fücks is a member of the executive board of the Heinrich Böll Foundation since 1996. He is a regular contributor to numerous newspapers and political periodicals and co-author to numerous books.