Guest Article #39

Spanish EU Presidency's climate priorities: it's time to act

Spain took the rotating Presidency of the European Council in January just after the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference. During the first weeks, Spain and its European partners drew lessons from the meeting. Efforts must now focus on implementing the actions accorded, and paving a constructive and inclusive process to build up to a successful summit in Cancun, where a long list of key topics need to be solved and defined.

Copenhagen achieved some important milestones: it raised climate change to the highest level of government and public opinion interest, and it produced a commitment to act from all key emitters in a context where adaptation, finance, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD) and technological cooperation where addressed. According to science and linked to its findings, we agreed not to exceed a 2ºC increase in temperature. However, doubts expressed on the process and results seem to be added to a strong reaction against climate science. The result is an increased risk of confusion in public opinion, as well as a threat that could weaken any global warming regulation or progress in the international climate change negotiations.

Restoring public opinion trust on the common capacity to address global problems requires delivering action on climate change immediately as scientists claim. At the international level, the most immediate step to patch up the confidence in the United Nations system is to implement as soon as possible the fast-track financing commitments adopted in Copenhagen. This includes the guidelines on how to raise mid-term finance and make this finance architecture capable of canalizing our solidarity toward developing countries through the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund. We also need to foster improvements in the accounting rules, in the response to REDD and in technology cooperation.

Climate change policies are an opportunity for business, for modernising the economy, for jobs, for better quality of life, for technologies and for energy security. There is a strong need to apply consistency at the local and international levels.

Consistency is more crucial than ever because climate change is one of the key challenging elements in the new international order where emerging needs and limited resources will have to meet so that welfare, security and sustainability can be achieved in a fair manner for an increasing world population. Climate change perspective has to be better integrated as a crosscutting element in all external and internal EU action.

There is still a lot of work to do; we have to face the limitations of the current framework unveiled in Copenhagen based upon our experience, the work undertaken and the accords achieved. The EU has the tools and the experience to do so. We have the capacity and the will, as well as a way to solve common challenges in a manner where the shopping list of national interests is overcome in favour of the common good.

It is important to promote bilateral and regional cooperation on climate change and energy issues. Particular focus must be placed on issues relating to financial flows and environmental technologies, in particular those aimed at mitigating and adapting to climate change, with special emphasis on improving energy efficiency, the deployment of renewable energy and the access to water.

The EU has the opportunity to build on the Copenhagen Accord and channel it into action. Copenhagen created the momentum for global action on climate change. There are new actors and approaches, where more plural answers will be required, and institutions and processes will need to be updated. But inaction from others must not be an excuse to delay us from fulfilling our commitments.

It is time to act and invite others to do so. The sooner the promises to the international community become real action, the easiest it will be to deepen towards sustainable responses in climate perspective. Europe knows where it wishes to be; let's be consistent and invite others to join us.