Wrong EU tactics: Copenhagen only the beginning of a long process

Andreja Jerončič and Danijel Crnčec
Copenhagen conference failed to reach expectations
While looking forward to the next conference on climate change (the sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP) and the sixth Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP)) at the end of November 2010, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia assessed the conference in Copenhagen as the beginning of a long process. Even though the conference ended without a legally binding agreement on joint action on climate change and therefore failed to reach global and also Slovenia’s expectations, it can lay the foundation for a comprehensive agreement. Therefore, it is even more important that, in the future, member states announce their commitments and show their political will and maturity in order to create an efficient global environmental management plan: “We can no longer afford to hesitate. The consequences of climate change will have devastating effects on development, the elimination of poverty, health care and security, and the political stability of countries and regions. Without timely and joint action, the costs of the consequences of climate change will greatly exceed the costs related to greenhouse gas emissions.”[1]
The Former Minister for Environment and Spatial Planning, Karl Erjavec, was disappointed with the agreement reached in Copenhagen, since it lacks legally binding targets, is not ambitious enough and is too general. Regarding the EU’s negotiation strategy, he believed that the EU adopted the wrong tactics for negotiations in Copenhagen. Although the EU was supposed to be the most important actor in the conference; it was basically invisible.[2] According to Karl Erjavec, the EU’s negotiation and communication strategy has to change, especially regarding the USA and China. In order for the EU to maintain its credibility, more bilateral meetings have to be conducted with both the most and the least developed countries since the multilateral summits will not be efficient otherwise due to divergent interests. However, some improvement is seen and the agreement can serve as a good basis for future negotiations.[3]
The Slovenian Foundation for Sustainable Development, Umanotera,[4] sees the Copenhagen Accord as empty and lacking substance. Moreover, not only are the goals not ambitious enough, but neither global nor national targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases are determined. According to Umanotera, the agreement does not meet global expectations and world leaders did not justify the public’s trust. It has shown that the common goal of preventing dangerous climate change does not suffice against the power of individual national interests and the degree of distrust between states; meanwhile, the time for action is expiring. According to Greenpeace Slovenia, one of the reasons for a weak agreement is the unwillingness of the EU to use its political power to lead countries into accepting legally binding targets.[5]
The Slovenian public is also sceptical about the Copenhagen Accord; 85 percent of people participating in the survey made on Slovenian national television believe that it will not help to reduce pollution due to the fact that it is not legally binding. This demonstrates that the public in Slovenia expects legal obligations and not only promises.[6]
EU energy and climate policy
According to the Government Office of the Republic of Slovenia of Climate Changes,[7] the EU energy and climate policy is among the most advanced in the world; therefore, its change by itself will not provide a major boost to international negotiations. The main reasons for the current impasse in negotiations lie outside the EU. The USA does not yet have a domestic legal base enabling for a comprehensive global and legally binding agreement. In addition to this, the level of trust between the developing and developed countries is very low. One of the reasons is that not all developed countries acknowledge their historic responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions and their consequences. Within the current policy, the EU still has the possibility to increase its 2020 emission reduction target from 20 to 30 percent in order to motivate other countries to set comparable targets. What the EU may want to change is the position of the second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol. Since a globally comprehensive legally binding agreement is not very likely in the next few years, the possibility of extending the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012 should be kept open. This would improve the level of trust in relation to the developing countries and put pressure on the USA.[8]
The global agreement within UNFCCC assessed as the best strategy
“Global agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the best option to securing global combat against climate change based on the principle of shared but differentiated responsibility.”[9] However, the Copenhagen Summit has shown that such an agreement may take more time and may not reach the level of effort required to stabilise climate change at the temperature increase of 2°C. Therefore, in order to improve international and bilateral cooperation, speed up the implementation of climate mitigation and adaptation measures, and in turn facilitate the achievement of a global agreement, alternative strategies need to be pursued. One such strategy is to perform well on the fast start financing agreed on in Copenhagen and to develop cooperation on measures with interested countries. A good example of this is the Slovenian participation in the Paris-Oslo process on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) and the Western Balkans Forum on Climate Change.[10]
According to Lučka Kajfež Bogataj,[11] a renowned Slovenian climatologist, one of the reasons for the failure of the conference in Copenhagen is that the Kyoto idea itself has died. The concept of binding reduction goals that are supervised by the UN is outdated because the global economy is so intertwined. “Today, almost half of the emissions that are caused by China go at the expense of manufacturing products for the Western world. How can we then prescribe China to cut its emissions, if we are causing them with our demand?”[12] However, she believes that it is better to fight climate change in a global context, i.e., in the context of the UN, than to let countries set their own targets.
Financial assistance has to be available to the developing countries
The summit confirmed the substantial differences in the views and negotiating positions between the developed and the developing countries. Some of the fast-growing economies lacked the necessary understanding for the less-developed countries, where the consequences of climate change mean no less than the difference between their existence and disappearance.[13] The position of the Ministry for Environment and Spatial Planning on financing mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries is that the measures for reducing emissions in the framework of the global climate agreement have to be based on the historical responsibility for the emissions of greenhouse gases and the financial capability of individual states. For the reduction of global emissions to be successful, it is necessary that the developing countries also limit and later on reduce their emissions. However, it needs to be taken into account that the developed states are the ones most responsible for the current situation and, therefore, have to bear the greatest burden. The financial and technological assistance along with the assistance for building capacities has to be assured to the developing countries and this help has to be sufficient and predictable. The EU as an entity has to contribute its fair share to this assistance according to two criteria: the capability of payment and the share of emissions. Slovenia is also supportive for the earlier financing, i.e., before the beginning of the second commitment period (2010-2012).[14]

[1] Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Press statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Samuel Žbogar, on the Copenhagen Summit, 22 December 2010, available at: (last access: 15 May 2010).

[2] STA: Erjavec: Kobenhavn demokratična anarhija; taktika EU napačna (Erjavec: Copenhagen is democratic anarchy: the EU tactic is misguided), 22 December 2010, available at: %C4%8CAR (last access: 16 May 2010).

[3] STA: Erjavec: EU mora spremeniti podnebno taktiko glede ZDA in Kitajske (Erjavec: EU must change climate tactic concerning USA and China), 16 January 2010, available at: (last access: 15 May 2010).

[4] The Slovenian Foundation for Sustainable Development – Umanotera: Sporočilo za javnost ob zaključku podnebnih pogajanj v Koebenhavnu (Press release at the end of the climate negotiations in Copenhagen), 19 December 2009, available at: (last access: 15 May 2010).

[5] STA: Nad dogovorom v Koebenhavnu razočarane tudi nevladne organizacije. (NGOs also disappointed with the agreement in Copenhagen), 19 December 2010, available at: (last access: 18 May 2010).

[6] Mmc.rtvslo.si: Anketa (Survey), 26. December 2010, available at: func=list&c_menu=23&c_parent=23&page=4 (last access: 15 May 2010).

[7] Jernej Stritih, Director of the Government Office of the Republic of Slovenia of Climate Changes: Written comments to the EU-27 Watch Questionnaire 2010.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Mladina: Intervju: Lučka Kajfež Bogataj, klimatologinja (Interview: Lučka Kajfež Bogataj, climatologist), 7 May 2010, available at: (last access: 18 May 2010).

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Press statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Samuel Žbogar, on the Copenhagen Summit, 22 December 2010, available at: (last access: 15 May 2010).

[14] Ministry for Environment and Spatial Planning: Stališča Republike Slovenije za konferenco o podnebnih spremembah v Koebenhavnu od 7. do 18. decembra 2009 (Position of the Republic of Slovenia on the conference on climate change in Copenhagen from 7 to 18 December), available at: konferenca_kopenhagen_stalisca_Slovenije.pdf (last access: 15 May 2010).