Climate and energy policy – Copenhagen and beyond

Austrian Institute for International Affairs

Hakan Akbulut

Even before the conference in Copenhagen ended, NGOs such as GLOBAL 2000 warned that the negotiations might collapse, in part due to Austrian intransigence related to the accounting of forest emissions.[1] When the conference indeed ended without producing any tangible results, the very same organisation stated that the declaration by the leaders was not worth the paper it was written upon.[2] The representative of the Climate Alliance Austria referred to the minimal compromise reached as a “climate catastrophe”.[3] He added that the only positive aspect to be mentioned was the commitment to provide 30 billion US-Dollars to developing countries in the period 2010-2012 and 100 billion US-Dollars a year by 2020 to cover mitigation and adaptation costs. Austrian Environment Minister Berlakovich openly acknowledged the failure of the conference. “Today is a black day for climate protection. What remains is only an invitation to continue”, Berlakovich held.[4] Later on, Chancellor Faymann blamed the organisers, saying that a conference bringing together 190 heads of government to achieve a compromise within three days should have been better prepared.[5] The Greens also stated that the conference in Copenhagen did not produce any results and criticised both the government and the EU.[6] Johanna Ruzicka, writing for the daily Der Standard, even argued that the minimal outcome of Copenhagen had led to an “international paralysis on the issue of climate protection and to a perplexity as to how to solve the problem of global warming.”[7] The Austrian Federal Economic Chamber also described the results of the conference as disappointing.[8] The EU strategy of trying to inspire other countries to commit themselves to emission reductions by adopting binding reduction goals prior to the conference had been flawed and had failed, the representative of the Chamber argued.

Overall, the EU unilaterally committing itself to more ambitious environmental goals, especially to greater levels of emission reduction, is opposed by the business circles. Before the conference in Copenhagen had started, the Federal Economic Chamber had demanded that all industrialised and threshold countries should adopt “reasonable” goals with regard to emission reduction.[9] The Chamber openly opposed the EU unilaterally raising the reduction goal to 30 percent during the conference unless other countries agreed to do so as well. It was argued that enterprises would otherwise flee the EU due to higher “CO2 costs”. The President of the Chamber, Christoph Leitl, added that unilateral commitments would not be helpful anyway, as the EU was responsible only for 13 percent of emissions worldwide.[10] Leitl also pointed out that Austria had been overambitious in Kyoto and thus committed itself to goals it could not realise in the end. Thus, the country was now paying about 1 billion Euros in penalties, as had been anticipated and warned against by the Chamber. The Federation of Austrian Industries (IV) is reportedly not in favour of more demanding emission regulations either.[11] As for the government, while the Environment Minister Berlakovich called, according to a report by the daily Der Standard, for a concrete, clear-cut EU position in order to be able to put pressure on countries such as the US, China, or Brazil,[12] neither the Ministry of the Environment, nor the Ministry of the Economy supported the idea put forward by the EU Commissioner Connie Hedegaard to raise emission reduction goals to 30 percent.[13] In contrast, for the Greens or NGOs such as Global 2000, the reduction goals of the EU are not ambitious enough. Both demand that the EU should commit itself to reducing emissions by 40 percent.[14]

As for the various positions on financing mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries, the Greens and Global 2000 are apparently strongly in favour of financial contributions by the industrialised world. The Greens demand that the industrial countries, as the main polluters, should provide the developing countries 110 billion Euros a year by 2020, while the latter should have reduced their emissions by 15-30 percent by that time. Global 2000, using the term “climate justice” and citing a study by the Stockholm Environment Institute, holds that the “EU’s fair share of finances for the developing world amounts to 150 billion to 450 billion Euros per year by 2020.”[15] The decision by the EU to provide 7.2 billion Euros in immediate aid to developing countries for mitigation and adaptation efforts was also welcomed by the Member of the European Parliament Karin Kadenbach from the Social Democratic Party of Austria.[16] However, she added that more money was required and that the European Parliament had asked the heads of state and government to provide at least 30 billion Euros in aid to the developing countries until 2020. The Social Democratic Party’s support for the amount offered was also confirmed by the Party’s speaker for Development Cooperation, Petra Bayr.[17]

As for the question as to whether the UNFCCC is the best framework to reach a global agreement on climate protection, no relevant debate could be identified for the reporting period.

[1] Global 2000: Eine Woche Klimakonferenz – GLOBAL 2000 zieht erste Bilanz: Verhandlung stocken, Österreich bremst!, 11 December 2009, available at: (last access: 17 May 2010).

[2] Global 2000: GLOBAL 2000 zu Kopenhagen: Verhandlungsdesaster statt notwendiger Klimaschutz!, 19 December 2009, available at: (last access: 25 May 2010).

[3] Klimabündnis Österreich: Klimabündnis: Kopenhagen ist gescheitert, 19 December 2010, available at: (last access: 22 May 2010).

[4] Lebensministerium: Kopenhagen: Geteilte Reaktionen auf Minimalkonsens bei Klimagipfel. Berlakovich kritisiert das Fehlen konkreter Zielvorgaben, 28 December 2009, available at: (last access: 22 May 2010).

[5] Bundeskanzleramt Österreich: Bundeskanzler Faymann: Finanzmarktkontrolle, Bankenabgabe und Klimaschutz sind außenpolitische Schwerpunkte, 6 April 2010, available at: (last access: 25 May 2010).

[6] Die Grünen: Kogler zu Klimagipfel Kopenhagen brachte Null-Ergebnis – Konferenz gescheitert, 19 December 2009, available at: (last access: 10 May 2010).

[7] Johanna Ruzicka: Klimaschutz in der Sackgasse, Der Standard, 13 January 2010.

[8] WKO: WKÖ-Schwarzer: Zweiteilung der Welt in Sachen CO2-Restriktionen muss überwunden werden, 20 December 2009, available at: (last access: 5 May 2010).

[9] WKO: EU-Panorama, 27 November 2009, available at:,vom,27.,November,2009 (last access: 4 May 2010).

[10] WKO: Leitl zu Klimaschutzgipfel: Europa muss alle großen CO2-Emittenten mit gleichwertigen Verpflichtungen ins Boot bekommen, 11 December 2009, available at: (last access: 4 May 2010).

[11] Der Standard, 26 May 2010.

[12] Lebensministerium: Berlakovich: Schritt für Schritt hin zu einem neuen Klimaschutzabkommen, 9 April 2010, available at: (last access: 5 May 2010).

[13] Note that Hedegaard has already revised her position. Cf. Der Standard, 26 May 2010.

[14] Die Grünen: Klimakonferenz Kopenhagen, available at: (last access: 16 May 2010); Global 2000: Die 40 Prozent-Studie, 26 January 2010, available at: (last access: 22 May 2010).

[15] Global 2000: 40% by 2020, 2009, p. 3, available at: (last access: 22 May 2010).

[16] SPÖ: Kadenbach: Einigung zu Soforthilfe für Entwicklungsländer zaghafter Schritt in richtige Richtung, 11 December 2009, available at: (last access: 20 May 2010).

[17] SPÖ: Bayr zu EU-Soforthilfe: Erfreuliches Angebot der EU an Entwicklungsländer, 11 December 2009, available at: (last access: 20 May 2010).

EU-27 Watch No 9 - Austria_Q4.pdf768.19 KB