4 December 2009
Europe has a date with history at Copenhagen. The spotlights will be on the EU at the UN Climate Conference from 7–18 December. Barack Obama is slated to put in an appearance in the Danish capital, but his avowed ambitions for America fall short of the part the world’s biggest polluter should be playing. Nor has the US ratified the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions anyway. Europe, on the other hand, says it is prepared to pull its weight to achieve the objectives set at the conference, including financial aid for the least well-off countries to cut emissions without curtailing development.
The EU’s track record on reducing emissions has been creditable to date, even if it has used accounting tricks to achieve part of its targets and some EU countries – especially Italy and Spain – are dragging their feet. Hence its opportunity – and obligation – to set an example now both in the negotiations and in the commitments that need to be made. Climate and the environment are one of the few areas in which Europeans can see eye to eye and make their voice heard – and in which, consequently, they are duty-bound to take action. Especially seeing as public opinion has long since accepted the sacrifices, as well as the changes in their way of life, that are required to this end – and even the cost, chiefly taxes, that will entail. G.P.A.