European leadership needs to avoid disappointing results in the future

Centre d’étude de la vie politique, Université libre de Bruxelles

Nathalie Brack

The climate conference in Copenhagen: a disappointment for all actors

All actors in Belgium were deeply disappointed by the results of the climate conference in Copenhagen. After so much work, high expectations and intense negotiations, both the climate organisations and the political parties hoped to have a binding agreement at the end of the conference.[1] The main Belgian climate movement claimed that the agreed text is weak and vague, without any commitment, due to the uncooperative attitude of China and the USA, but also to a lack of leadership from Europe.[2] For the main political parties in Belgium, the conference was a missed opportunity. They all declared to be deeply disappointed. The French-speaking Greens and the Christian-Democrats insisted on the importance of staying mobilised, whereas the Socialists stressed the lack of solidarity between the North and the South and between industrialised and developing countries.[3] For the Prime Minister, Yves Leterme, and the Minister for Climate and Energy Policy, Paul Magnette, these weak results are mainly due to the attitude of China, which did not want to negotiate or help finance anything. But the USA is also to blame: the Belgian Prime Minister declared being deceived by the US propositions to reduce their CO2 emissions by only 4 percent by 2020. The strategy of the EU, on the other hand, was completely supported by Belgium. Indeed, the country fully agreed with the unilateral commitment of the EU to reduce its emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and supports the position that the EU cannot be the only actor to set such an ambitious target.[4]

A crucial leadership role for the EU in future negotiations within the UNFCCC

Although disappointed, all actors stressed the crucial role of the EU, both internally and at the international level. Indeed, they all argued that the EU should continue to be ambitious in its own targets, and that climate change should remain a top priority on the agenda for the coming years. The national climate movements would even like the EU to commit itself to decreasing its CO2 emissions by 40 percent by 2020. But, at the political level, the actors claimed that the EU should keep its commitment of 20 percent and could eventually decrease its emissions by 30 percent, if other international actors also commit themselves to more efforts in terms of climate policy.[5]

At the international level, Belgian actors and, more specifically, the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats (Open Vld) declared that the EU should play a leading role, give a new impulse to the international negotiations and make sure a binding agreement is reached during the next climate conference at the end of 2010. Belgian actors are confident that a global agreement with the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the best strategy to fight climate change, but some complementary measures could also be taken. The Belgian Minister for Climate and Energy Policy declared, in that respect, that the EU should maybe consider levying CO2 taxes on countries that are not willing to cooperate in fighting climate change.[6]


[1] La Libre Belgique, 14 December 2009, available at: www.lalibre.be (last access: 9 May 2010); De Standaard, 16 December 2009, available at: www.standaard.be (last access: 6 May 2010).

[2] La Libre Belgique, 19 December 2009, available at: www.lalibre.be (last access: 9 May 2010); De Morgen, 19 December 2009, available at: www.demorgen.be (last access: 8 May 2010).

[3] Le Soir, 19 December 2009, available at: www.lesoir.be (last access: 8 May 2010); La Libre Belgique, 19 December 2009, available at: www.lalibre.be (last access: 9 May 2010); Ecolo press release, 19 December 2009; cdH (centre démocrate humaniste, i.e. French Speaking Christian Democrats), press release, 19 December 2009.

[4] La Libre Belgique, 16 December 2009, available at: www.lalibre.be (last access: 9 May 2010); Le Soir, 10 December 2009, available at: www.lesoir.be (last access: 8 May 2010); De Standaard, 10 December 2009, available at: www.standaard.be (last access: 6 May 2010).

[5] Le Soir, 18 December 2009, available at: www.lesoir.be (last access: 8 May 2010).

[6] De Morgen, 19 December 2009, available at: www.demorgen.be (last access: 8 May 2010).

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