Ambitions not achieved in Copenhagen

Louise van Schaik
The Copenhagen conference was widely covered in the Dutch press. The outcome was portrayed as a failure, with the EU being sidelined and upcoming powers demonstrating their increased powers in the negotiations.[1] Considerable attention was given to the chaotic process of negotiations – the EU being unable to speak with one voice – and the take-over of the Danish chairmanship of the conference by the Prime Minister away from the Environment Minister halfway through the negotiations. According to Green Member of the European Parliament Bas Eickhout, the weak statements made by the Swedish EU Presidency, that illustrated persisting disunity among the EU member states, particularly illustrated the EU’s inability to operate on the basis of a strong single voice.[2]
The Dutch government considers the Copenhagen Summit less successful than it had aimed for. Positions of important players in the negotiations were too far apart and the process of the negotiations was cumbersome.[3] Nevertheless, the Dutch government still considers that the Copenhagen Accord provides sufficient content as a starting point for future negotiations on an international climate treaty.[4] Its strengths include the reference to keeping the maximum temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius, and the political direction it gives regarding measuring, reporting and verification of finance and mitigation commitments; mechanisms for technology transfer and avoidance of deforestation; and the set-up of a financial architecture and review in 2015. Shortcomings include that no reference is made to market-based mechanisms and that emissions from aviation, maritime, agriculture and industrial Hydrofluorocarbons were not addressed.[5]
The Netherlands is an advocate of an ambitious EU climate policy. The increase of the so called “20-20-20” reduction target to 30 percent from the current 20 percent should principally be used as a leverage to convince other countries to join the EU’s efforts, but the Netherlands also seems open to consider such an increase unilaterally. For instance, in January, the Netherlands was among the EU member states that wanted to submit the 30 percent target to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for the annex of the Copenhagen Accord.[6] Other member states only wanted to submit the 20 percent target and as a compromise the 30 percent was kept conditional upon other industrialised states undertaking a similar effort and emerging economies taking up a meaningful commitment, i.e., the original EU position. The Netherlands favours an international climate agreement which is similar to the Kyoto Protocol, although it realises it will not be easy to negotiate such a treaty, and discussions outside the UN process should also be pursued. The EU should clearly operate as a united bloc in international climate negotiations and the Dutch government is open to a larger role for the European Commission or the President of the European Council in external representation, although it underlines the right for representation by the member states.[7]
One of the priority areas of the Dutch government is climate financing. It has invested considerable efforts in stimulating debates and launching ideas on how to organise the international architecture of climate financing. It is pleased with the decision on the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund and hopes the Commission will soon present a Communication on how to operationalise it.[8] It undertakes efforts to convince other EU member states to deliver on short-term financing. Contributions of the private sector and innovative financing need to be among the priority issues to be analysed and discussed within the context of the UN High Level Panel on Climate Financing. The Netherlands itself has promised to deliver 300 million Euros of fast track financing for the period 2010-2012. This money would be additional to funds committed earlier to development cooperation and environmental projects.[9]

[1] P. Luttikhuis: ‘Kopenhagen’ verdeelt wereld, NRC, 21 December 2009; M. Bezemer/G. Moes: Grote top, klein resultaat, Trouw, 21 December 2009; M. Peeperkorn/M. Persson: EU heeft nakijken in Kopenhagen, De Volkskrant, 21 December 2009; M. Peeperkorn: EU wil af van kater van Kopenhagen, De Volkskrant, 23 December 2009.

[2] B. Eickhout: Waarom Europa buitenspel stond in Kopenhagen, NRC, 22 December 2009.

[3] Brief van de Minister van Volkshuisvesting, ruimtelijke ordening en milieubeheer aan de voorzitter van de Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, 9 February 2010.

[4] Cf. Internationaal klimaatbeleid na Kopenhagen, letter sent by the Environment Minister to Parliament, 19 March 2010.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Bulletin Quotidien Europe 10061, 22 January 2010; Han Dirk Hekking: Spanje tracht scheuren in klimaatfront te repareren, Financieel Dagblad, 18 January 2010.

[7] Cf. Internationaal klimaatbeleid na Kopenhagen, letter sent by the Environment Minister to Parliament, 19 March 2010.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Milieuraad: Verslag van een algemeen overleg, Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, 25 March 2010.