Europe’s voice was no source of influence in Copenhagen

Istituto Affari Internazionali

Jacopo Leone
In Italy, as in most European countries, the meagre results achieved during the Copenhagen Summit have produced a palpable frustration. In this regard, the words of the Italian Minister for Environment Stefania Prestigiacomo sharply highlighted this feeling, noting that the conference has been a substantial political failure and a deeply disappointing experience.[1] However, while still discouraged by the summit’s results, Carlo Carraro, an Italian member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has been more cautious. In his view, although insufficient, such a weak outcome was indeed the only possible. The EU appears to be the real loser, since it had considerable ambitions which had not been met during the conference.[2]
This EU failure has also been revealed by the Italian press and the research community. In particular, it has been noted that the EU is once again incapable of speaking with one strong voice which is the real reason at the base of its marginalisation.[3] Moreover, such an alarming development is well represented by the new cooperation between the US and emergent economies, from which the final political decision emerged at the last minute of the conference.[4]
In conclusion, the achievement of a more comprehensive agreement was rather unrealistic. Nevertheless, the EU appeared weak and divided, unable to make its voice a real source of influence during the entire Copenhagen conference.[5] The approaching summit in Bonn will tell us whether the institutional changes included in the Lisbon Treaty will represent a solution to the current state of things.
The Italian debate on energy and climate policy has stressed, on several occasions, the potentially leading role of the EU in this sector. Indeed, the ambitious Europe 2020 Strategy ultimately gives the EU an enhanced credibility on environmental aspects at the international level, which should be used to create a strong political agreement for the post Copenhagen phase.[6] In order to do so, however, it appears necessary to first overcome the divisions within the EU itself, and then find a common agreement between those member states that want to “lead by example” and those that would like a more global commitment.[7]
An effective way to achieve such an international credibility would be to adopt concrete actions in the framework of the pending European economic strategy by including a clear obligation towards strict environmental measures in the final document.[8] In this way, a new impulse to the next round of international negotiations could be offered by the EU, which, as the recent European sustainable energy week demonstrates, is in several aspects a leading actor on the issue.[9]
It may be noted in this overview that in Italy the issue of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as possibly the best strategy to fight climate change has not yet been discussed. The main reason is probably to be found in the highly technical level of the topic and the low domestic interest over the issue.

The same lack of material characterises the Italian position on financing mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries. Arguably, the reason is again the very limited public interest on the issue and the specificity of its nature.

[1] La Stampa: In soli 5 minuti USA e Cina hanno affossato il Summit, 20 December 2009, available at: (last access: 30 April 2010).

[2] La Repubblica: Parla l’esperto italiano all’ONU ‘Al Summit troppe aspettative’, 21 December 2009, available at: (last access: 30 April 2010).

[3] La Stampa: Il flop dell’Europa: troppe primedonne e neanche un leader, 20 December 2009, available at: (last access: 30 April 2010).

[4] Nòva: Il clima di Copenhagen: ne dobbiamo prendere atto, Il Sole24ore, 21 December 2009, available at: (last access: 30 April 2010).

[5] Umberto Bertelè: Copenhagen e il nuovo ordine mondiale, AffarInternazionali, 21 December 2009, available at: (last access: 30 April 2010).

[6] Marzio Galeotti: La rigida primavera del clima, La Voce, 26 March 2010, available at: (last access: 5 May 2010).

[7] Annalisa D’Orazio: Italia a corto di strategie sul clima, La Voce, 26 January 2010, available at: (last access: 5 May 2010).

[8] Villaggio Globale: Nuovi obbiettivi Ue per mantenere la leadership, 13 March 2010, available at: (last access: 5 May 2010).

[9] La Stampa: Al via lunedì settimana europea dell’energia sostenibile, 19 March 2010, available at: (last access: 5 May 2010).

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