Latvia supports the fight against climate change

Dzintra Bungs

As in many parts of the world, the prevailing view in Latvia has been that the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly known as the Copenhagen summit or the Copenhagen climate conference, was by and large a failure. Latvia had wholeheartedly supported the proposals of the EU that had been approved at the Council of the European Union on 29-30 October 2009 in Brussels. The only caveat of the Latvians was that the plans adopted in Copenhagen on 7-18 December 2009 should take into consideration the economic and financial situation of each country committing itself to the common goals.[1]
Already before the conclusion of the UN climate conference, Latvia’s Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, who attended the international gathering in the Danish capital, predicted that the conference would end without an agreement on any of its ambitious goals. He told the Latvian TV journalists that, in all likelihood, the questions discussed at the conference would serve as a basis for hammering out, at a later time, an accord to limit climate change.[2] These views were shared by the Environment Minister, Raimonds Vējonis, who said after the conference that all the proposals leading to substantive action fell through and that everything would have to start again from the beginning, because the accord that was finally agreed upon is so weak.

Hardly anyone interested in climate policy

Katia Hristova
Bulgaria entered the Copenhagen conference negotiations with the firm position of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov that the country is not ready to back up the EU’s efforts to bring about positive results with financial allocations.[1] In a post-communist society where strong environmental concerns are still to take hold, the “deal” that Bulgaria will provide only 40 thousand Euros did not provoke intense public debate as to the lack of a pro-active state policy on the issue of climate change. Only a few independent journalists have blamed the government for this “factual denial of participation”.[2]
Bulgarian civil society, experts, policy and public opinion makers have failed so far to articulate any kind of ideas on the strategy the EU should follow to fight climate change. No environmental NGO has initiated any substantial discussion on the efforts EU member states should make in order to give a new impulse to the international negotiations.

[1] Available at: (last access: 30 July 2010).

[2] Boyadjiev, Yasen: Baj Ganyo and the climate change.

Scapegoat European Union?

Severin Fischer, Meike Löhr and Julian Schwartzkopff
In Germany, the outcome of the Copenhagen conference led to a variety of different interpretations. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German government described the result with “mixed feelings”,[1] while environmental associations and opposition politicians called it a “disaster”[2] with a “disillusioning and insufficient result”.[3] Europe gave up its leading role on climate protection without even fighting for it, Reinhard Bütikofer (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) argued,[4] whereas the Social Democrats (SPD) accused China and the United States of not being cooperative enough.[5] Hubert Weiger, head of BUND, one of Germany’s most influential environmental NGOs, clearly expressed his disappointment about the EU being responsible for Copenhagen’s failure. The EU should have been an example for others, but stranded.[6] Germanwatch, another environmental NGO, argued that the “negotiating poker failed due to the misguided strategy pursued by central actors”.[7] Accordingly, the EU did not take over a leadership role.

Disillusionment after the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change

Lara Lázaro and Alicia Sorroza
The Spanish government praised the technical advancements of the working groups at Copenhagen. It was also satisfied about having brought the largest polluters on board (albeit in the in extremis meeting). It nevertheless realised that international environmental agreements are inevitably slow and bound by the law of the least ambitious programme. In sum, there was an undisguised feeling of failure among government officials. This was reflected in the declarations made by the Spanish Office of Climate Change (OECC) at various seminars and workshops in the aftermath of the COP15. Too much to achieve in a short period of time, with misunderstandings and lack of trust among parties, could summarise the government’s analysis of Copenhagen. The Spanish Presidency of the EU was expected to further the joint efforts of the European Union in the future achievement of a legally binding agreement.[1]

Fighting climate change crucial for Cyprus

Nicoleta Athanasiadou, Costas Melakopides and Christos Xenophontos
In the December 2009 European Council that preceded the climate conference in Copenhagen, President Christofias and the majority of Cypriot political classes welcomed the EU leaders’ decision to assist developing countries financially to meet their emission targets.[1] Cyprus’ contribution to the EU fund is about 600,000 Euros per year, a prospect that was overall welcomed by both political parties and civil society. However, they all insisted simultaneously on the issue’s global aspects, underlining that, besides the EU, other developed countries, and primarily the USA and Japan, should also contribute to the global efforts for protecting the environment.[2]

Disappointment due to wishful thinking

Luis Pais Antunes
There were great expectations in Portugal for the Copenhagen conference. Secretary for Environment, Humberto Rosa, qualified the results of the conference as “deceiving” but in any case “better than nothing”[1], in line with most of the European representatives. As Minister Amado recently acknowledged, the disappointment was mainly the result of wishful thinking about how the other interested parties would accept the negotiation terms. Amado expressly mentions that the European position “was a little bit naïve” in trying to take leadership in a subject matter where it could find an easy consensus among the member states, without understanding the concerns of its main partners. According to Amado, Europe, which still lives under the strategic dependence from the USA, tried to use the climate issue as an opportunity to take the lead and clearly failed, which also proves that it still faces significant limitations as to its status as a global actor.[2]

A need for a regional climate strategy in the Balkans

Biljana Janeva
Climate change politics in Macedonia are interlinked with the European integration process, as well as with the wider political horizon.
According to the Macedonian daily newspaper Dnevnik, the Copenhagen climate summit organised by the UN is hardly possible to be assessed as a new phase in human thought and organisation or as the corner stone of a new ecologically conscious civilisation. According to the daily, the climate summit was threatened by multiple fiascos: lack of a binding agreement, the discrediting of renowned scientists, and open dispute between the developing world and the wealthy world. Copenhagen will be noted for revealing profiteer’s interests, politicians’ dirty interests, the misuse of the civil sector and the manipulation of the world leading media, notes the daily.[1] After the summit, the media in Macedonia were filled with headlines, such as “Failure and downfall of the Copenhagen Summit”. According to the Macedonian media and experts, although the Copenhagen summit was declared to be a fiasco, the adopted agreement has certain duties for the countries, especially small ones like Macedonia.[2]

Energy and climate change

Alison Sutherland
Copenhagen and its aftermath
The Copenhagen conference is widely regarded in the United Kingdom as a reverse for the European Union. The Union is seen as having played only a marginal role in the negotiations, and where European voices were raised, they were apparently those of the major member states rather than that of the Commission. The results of the conference itself are generally seen in this country as inconclusive, but this is an outcome of less concern to British electors than might have been the case twelve months ago. Opinion polls have shown a definite decline in the interest of British electors in questions relating to climate change over the past year.[1]
Future negotiations on climate change