Moving forward on climate



Today, I was one of the speakers at a climate event hosted by IPPR, Christian Aid and WWF-UK. Below you will find a somewhat expanded version of my introductory remarks on Europe´s role in global climate politics.


Two major questions are posed at this event: 

How can Europe regain its leadership?

How can it get others to follow?

As regards the leadership, I agree that the European Union was sidelined in Copenhagen and that there is a need to learn from that. The present economic crisis and austerity measures might also contribute to weakening the support for ambitious targets.

At the same time, however, it´s important to state that the EU still has what is probably the most ambitious climate policies of the major actors in the negotiations.

My first point is that the EU should not water down its commitments, which might be a real danger if Cancun is a failure and climate moves further down the policy agenda. In the short-term, defending what has been achieved must be part of the strategy.

When it comes to regaining Europe´s influence, the basis of leadership is what you do yourself.

The implementation of the 2008 climate and energy package is very important. Member States have to put forward convincing plans to reach the targets for reducing carbon emissions, improving energy efficiency and increasing the use of renewable energy sources. But Europe also has to move forward on new measures, for example on energy efficiency, carbon taxes and on improvements to the emissions trading system.

So, how do you build support for an ambitious climate policy in a time of crisis? Discussions before and at European Councils is something different from meetings of Environment Ministers.

There are a number of arguments that can convince top-level decision-makers why Europe should continue to take the lead.

First, of course, the risks of climate change. Policy-makers have to understand the dramatic consequences of a 3 or 4 degree change. There is still a tendency not to plan for worst-case scenarios. When public debate is focussing on the economy, it´s even more important  to continue highlighting possible abrupt effects from climate change.

Second, the long-term competiveness of  European industry. By not moving forward, other areas of the world will take the lead in the development of low-carbon technologies – both for climate policy reasons and to improve energy security. There is a real risk of Europe being overtaken by developments around the Pacific Ocean. Look at the green investment packages in China, South Korea. DG Climate Action has put forward an interesting analysis of this subject in a Staff Working Paper accompanying the recent Communication on a possible 30 percent reduction target.

Third, there is the issue about green jobs and green investment as a way out of the present crisis. Austerity measures will probably dominate political debate this year, causing public protests and posing risks of legitimacy to a number of European governments. There will be cuts also in environmental budgets and perhaps in development aid. But it will be difficult for politicians not to take action to reduce unemployment and for example looking at new ways of financing investment in renewable energy and power grids. This is also a lesson from Swedish experience during the deep economic crisis of the 1990s.

Fourth, the link between climate change and security is evident. The foreign and security community is starting to take climate change seriously. Present and potential conflicts in other parts of the world, energy security for Europe, conflicts over natural resources more broadly that feeds in to Europe´s security.  

Fifth, the European Union´s political need for world leadership in a time of shrinking economic influence. The people at the new positions established by the Lisbon Treaty are competing. One positive aspect of these turf wars is that all of them – Van Rompuy, Ashton and Barroso – want to be in the front on climate, at least as long there is not complete failure in global negotiations. I would particularly mention Herman Van Rompuy and his staff as a more important player in the time to come.

With so many strong arguments, I am optimistic that the European Union will continue to move forward on climate policies and play a progressive role in the global negotiations on climate. But to succeed, Europe must learn from the failure in Copenhagen.

That brings me to the second question: How can the EU get others to follow?

To a large extent, I believe the answer is trust.

One reason the EU punched below its weight in Copenhagen was the confidence gap between developed and developing nations. In other negotiations, co-operation between the EU and G77-countries has been important to achieve results: for example on the biosafety protocol of the convention on biological diversity and the export ban in the Basel convention. In Copenhagen, the BASIC countries did the deal with the US, apparently not caring too much about Europe. To change that next time, the EU must build stronger alliances both with countries like Brazil and South Africa, and with poorer countries. (Of course India, China and Russia are also important, but time does not allow me to dwell on those relations).

To build trust with developing countries, there are a number of important issues for the EU:

– delivering on fast-track financing

– supporting the Kyoto protocol as one option for post 2012

– helping countries facing climate-related environmental disasters

– confidence building measures such as developing certification schemes for emission reductions (as proposed by IPPR)

– listening to the concerns of developing countries in other areas of international environmental policies, such as biological diversity and recycling

– considering the way the EU acts in some parts of trade policy. For example the raw materials initiative – better to develop win-win policies than to threaten with economic sanctions. Or the external trade aspects of the EU2020 strategy. How the EU acts on trade issues will affect the level  trust in climate discussions. Look for win-win strategies such as free trade in low-carbon technologies.

– using possible leverage from reform of CAP and fisheries policies. There will not be enough reform in the short-term, but still there could be openings for improving trust. In the long-run, reducing agricultural production and export subsidies is necessary for a global green deal.

– delivering on Millenium Goals, inter alia on official development assistance. The June European Council stayed by the 2015 target for ODA but there is a need to defend this in the wake of the euro crisis.

– improving green diplomacy.  The Lisbon Treaty gives new opportunities, but there is also cause for concern given the present turf wars in Brussels.

Much is to be said about the road to Cancun and South Africa, but time does not allow to go deeper into the negotiating issues. Progress on issues such as forestry, hot air and verification is important. But there is also a need to look at the broader context. In the time frame 2015 – where are we then?

Most important now is to keep momentum. Let not disappointment after Cancun allow the whole process to collapse. If a legally binding agreement on emission targets is not possible in the near-term, agree on a step-by-step process.

One part of such a process could be a stronger focus on Policies and Measures, building on the relevant parts of the climate convention. Progress in this area has stalled since the 1990s.  For example, why not develop a protocol on minimum standards for energy efficiency, based on the UNFCCC?

To summarize: key for the EU is delivering on its own 20-20-20 targets, building trust with developing countries, looking for step-by-step progress in global negotiations based on policies and measures as defined by the climate convention.

Thank you.

A Green World Power – But For How Long?



Finally, the Copenhagen Climate Summit starts. Reaching an agreement at the conference is `a very big and important task´ for the Swedish EU Presidency, Fredrik Reinfeldt stated in July. Now it is clear that Copenhagen will not produce a binding agreement, a setback for Reinfeldt´s ambitions.

Without doubt, the European Union has played a leading role in global climate negotiations, saving the Kyoto Protocol and setting the most ambitious emission targets among major economies.

European leverage in Copenhagen depends on how governments solve outstanding issues. There is still no bid from the EU on financial aid to developing countries, although Reinfeldt claimed so after the European Council in October. Sweden is now trying to get pledges from as many EU governments as possible.

Green Ministers. Denmark´s Connie Hedegaard and Sweden´s Andreas Carlgren.  Photo: Gunnar Seijbold/Government Offices

Green Ministers. Denmark´s Connie Hedegaard and Sweden´s Andreas Carlgren. Photo: Gunnar Seijbold/Government Offices

Financial aid has to be additional to earlier promises if Copenhagen is to be a success. Developing countries will not be convinced if the money comes from existing development aid budgets. The European Council on Thursday and Friday has to come up with a substantial offer.

Fredrik Reinfeldt must also have the guts to say no to Barack Obama if the US position is too weak. It would be a serious mistake to abandon the Kyoto Protocol without a better binding agreement in place.

In Copenhagen, the European Union will be in the lead. But in five years, the picture might have changed. The new government in Japan has already presented an ambitious climate target. China is moving fast forward, for example on green technologies. The same goes for South Korea and other emerging economies. With Barack Obama as President, the United States can regain the leading role in environmental policy the country had during the 1970s and 1980s.

Europe could quickly lose its pole position if there is not enough progress on new environmental measures. Unfortunately, there has been a slowing down in green policy-making during the last few years, with industry concerns over short-term competitiveness growing more influential.

The new Commission will have a key role in securing that Europe does not fall behind. Connie Hedegaard is a good choice as climate commissioner, but it is also crucial that the new climate directorate has a strong leadership. The ambitious climate targets agreed must be followed by concrete measures to preserve Europe´s credibility.

Other environmental issues are equally important. It will not be possible to find long-term solutions to climate change without adressing the loss of biodiversity. Resource and energy efficiency will climb even higher on the political agenda when conflicts over scarce resources grow stronger.

Thus, Jan Potocnik´s portfolio is as important as Connie Hedegard. The European Parliament should put tough questions to Potocnik on the agenda for the coming years.

The new high representative, Catherine Ashton, also has a key role. The European External Actions Service should have a strong green component.

Being a green world power is an advantage for the European Union, giving credibility both in the world and among its own citizens. The Copenhagen Summit will be a test for European diplomacy and for the Swedish Presidency. However, ambitious Commission proposals on environment during the next few years could be even more important for Europe´s role on the global stage.

Others on the Swedish EU Presidency: DN, Jean QuatremerTony

Russia – a Challenge for the High Representative



Wednesday´s EU-Russia Summit will be the last major foreign policy event under the Nice Treaty. On 1 December, the new President of the Council and the new High Representative will assume their posts. Russia will be one of their main challenges.

Sweden will continue to chair Council meetings until the end of its Presidency, in accordance with conclusions from the EU Summit in December 2008. But that doesn´t mean that the two new top politicians will keep silent. They will surely have a role at the European Council 10-11 December, perhaps appearing at a joint press conference with Reinfeldt and Barroso. The real turf wars will be during the Spanish Presidency. Zapatero will not give away Spain´s six months in the spotlights so easily.

On Wednesday in Stockholm, however, Reinfeldt will run the show together with José Manuel Barroso and Javier Solana. Discussions with Russian President Dmitrij Medvedev in the `Hall of Mirrors´ at Grand Hôtel are likely to focus on climate change, energy security and trade issues. How human rights issues will be brought up is a subject for EU Foreign Ministers´ meeting tomorrow.

Relations to Russia have been difficult for every Presidency to handle. Sweden has done better than most. The Foreign Ministry did a lot behind the scenes to avoid a new Georgia conflict this summer.

True, there is anger in Moscow over Carl Bildt´s outspoken comments on the war in Georgia, and Sweden´s statements on murders of human rights activists. It took a long time for Russia to confirm the date and place for the EU-Russia Summit. But that kind of tensions is better than treating the Kremlin with silk gloves.

Of course, the EU needs Russia, not least for its energy resources. It is perhaps no coincidence that the gas pipelines Nordstream and Southstream were approved by EU Member States just before the Summit. But Russia is also dependent on the EU as its main trading partner.

During Foreign Ministers´discussions tomorrow, there will be hardliners (many from Eastern Europe) and softies (including Germany and Italy). Of course, the European Union needs a constructive dialogue with Russia. In my view, however, it would be a sign of weakness if the EU did not dare to speak up about killings of human rights activists and journalists at the meeting with Medvedev.  The same is true for the rigged regional elections and the continued human rights abuses in Chechnya.

Hopefully, Medvedev will not repeat Putin´s aggressive appearance in Stockholm 2001. Then, Putin chocked the press and his host Göran Persson by saying `If the Albanian UCK-terrorists cannot be disarmed they must be eliminated´. Putin continued: `In Macedonia, we are presently experiencing the same thing as we have experienced in Chechnya´. Fortunately, the EU used its diplomatic skills to solve the conflict in Macedonia, not the brutal strategy of the Kremlin in the Caucasus.

But even if Medvedev is more soft-spoken than Putin, that does not mean that the politics of the Kremlin has changed much, whether it comes to Chechnya or to human rights in general.

Promoting democracy and freedom of the media in Russia is a strategic task for the new EU High Representative, to be appointed on Thursday. If too little is done, the Russian model will corrupt state power also in parts of the European Union. Look at Italy.

One key to success might be to frame this work in a modern strategy for democratization and media pluralism, to be applied in all EU external relations. Anna Lindh brought up this issue during the Swedish Presidency in 2001. It might be something for the new High Representative to consider.

Others about the Swedish Presidency, EU-Russia meeting: DN, DN2, DN3, EUObserver, Jean Quatremer, Jon Worth, Le Taurillon, SvD, SvD2, SvD3, Tony Barber

Confrontation with Iran getting closer



Tension is growing between US, Europe and Iran as the meeting in Geneva on Thursday approaches. After Iran´s test-firing of two short-range missiles, a test with the Shahab 3 long range missile is scheduled for Monday.

Although Iran´s nuclear program is arguably the most controversial and dangerous issue on Europe´s foreign policy agenda, decision-making is still dominated by the big three – Germany, France and the UK. How wise is it for other Member States to accept this approach?

On Friday, Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy sent a strong message to Iran, linked to the second uranium enrichment facility near Qom. Angela Merkel associated herself with the joint statement. Nicolas Sarkozy also said: “If by December there is not an in-depth change by the Iranian leaders, sanctions will have to be taken.”

Although there was a discussion on sanctions at the Gymnich meeting in Stockholm, as well as later, the December deadline set by Sarkozy in New York does not seem to have been fully co-ordinated among the EU-27. Still, the security consequences for all Member States could be immense.

After the strong statements in New York and the Iranian missile tests, the path towards tough sanctions seems almost inevitable. But where does it lead? Interviewed by The Guardian, David Miliband did not rule out military action if diplomacy fails.

There is always conventional wisdom on what is politically possible or not. Since 2003, the established view on Iran has been that the E3 should conduct negotiations, with Javier Solana at their side.

“It´s alright as long as things go well”, a high-level Swedish diplomat said when I asked about the 3+1 approach in 2004. Well, it hasn´t exactly been a success.

The earlier “no talks as long as enrichment continues”-line could not be questioned, but turned out to be a failure. Now, it has been abandoned. Including broader security issues in the dialogue with Iran was not possible in 2003 due to political pressure from the Bush administration. That also seems to have been a mistake.

There is no reason to be soft on the brutal dictatorship in Iran. The leadership has struck down peaceful demonstrations and concealed parts of the nuclear program. But by treating Iran different from other parties to the non-proliferation treaty – not to mention Israel – the EU3 are giving the hardliners in Teheran an argument at home. Don´t underestimate the anti-colonial feelings in a nation proud of its long history and culture.

Instead of ultimatums, the EU could make its “carrots” more attractive, by improving trade offers, discussing broader security issues, and dealing also with Israel´s nuclear program. Philip Stephens recently argued well for a strategy built on incentives in the Financial Times.

That does not mean that the EU should rule out tough action towards Teheran, just that Iran should be treated as everybody else. The fact-based approach of Mohamed ElBaradei at the IAEA has been better than the aggressive words of Europe´s nuclear powers. There is still scope for a strategy build more on incentives than on threats.

The December deadline puts pressure on Swedish EU Presidency. Iran will most likely be high on the agenda for the EU Summit 29-30 October, but no presidency so far has been able to keep the big three from acting on their own.

Are Bildt och Reinfeldt being sidelined? Well, the Swedes are doing what they can to keep the issue about sanctions within the established EU procedures, but it is not an easy task.

Iran will be one more test for the credibility of the common foreign policy, and is already one more reason for the new High Representative not to come from one of the three biggest Member States.

`November, my goodness´, said Solana



Carl Bildt can be satisfied with the informal Foreign Ministers´ meeting in Stockholm.

Almost everything went according to plan. Javier Solana´s praise for the Swedish Presidency at the concluding press conference was not only flattery. Discussions were more focused than usual and the practical arrangements worked well.

Will this Swedish effectiveness be enough to keep the EU together on controversial issues such as Iran? That remains to be seen.

Carl Bildt and Javier Solana         Photo: Gunnar Seijbold/Government offices

Carl Bildt and Javier Solana Photo: Gunnar Seijbold/Government offices

At the meeting, a common position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was facilitated by Javier Solana´s input. Ministers had different public messages on the civilian casualties in Afghanistan, with Bernard Kouchner being particularly critical to the Nato bombing. But when it came to the EU´s post-election strategy, Carl Bildt´s report from his recent visit to Afghanistan and an ambitious issues paper led to fruitful discussions.

Possible sanctions against Iran are a more difficult co-ordination task for the Swedish Presidency. The negotiations on the nuclear issue are carried out by the “big three” on behalf of the EU. However, the economic sanctions mentioned by Angela Merkel recently are not something the Swedes want to be dictated by France, Germany and the UK.

During the Iran discussion on Friday, it was clear that the EU is getting closer to reinforced sanctions and that the statement by Merkel was no coincidence. Still, there are differing views on the effectiveness of economic sanctions and on the precedent EU sanctions without approval by the UN Security Council might set.

Leaving substance aside, maybe this Gymnich meeting will be remembered as the last one where the rotating Presidency led the deliberations. That will be decided by the Irish on 2 October.

If Irland votes yes, the Swedish Presidency will immediately start negotiations in Brussels on the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty (with a small reservation for what happens in the Czech Republic and in Poland).

`November, my goodness´ said Javier Solana when asked by the press about events later this autumn. His mandate ends in the middle of October, so it´s understable that November is low on his EU agenda.

The European Council should appoint a new High Representative on 29 October, according to Swedish plans.

At the European summit, there should also be a framework decision on the tasks for the High Representative and the External Action Service (EAS). Although no one in Stockholm states it openly, most likely there is already a draft decision stored in the computers, to be distributed immediately when the first negotiation meeting is called.

Five areas are of particular importance: the scope of the High Representative´s mandate, the budget, the legal base, how appointments in the EAS should be decided, and a number of issues related to EU delegations around the world.

The Commission takes a strong line on some of these issues, but the framework decision will be by the 27 governments, and full agreement with the Commission is not considered necessary.

So, which role remains for Carl Bildt when the new High Representative is appointed? That will be an interesting question, if Ireland votes yes.

Unless Bildt himself gets the new job.

Iran looms over Gymnich meeting



What line should the EU take on economic sanctions towards Iran?

This is one of the crucial questions at the informal meeting with EU Foreign Ministers, starting tomorrow.

Angela Merkel´s statement last week on Iran has been interpreted as a shift towards a tougher German position (excellently described by Judy Dempsey in today´s IHT).

Merkel mentioned sanctions “in the energy, financial and other important sectors” if Iran does not change its nuclear policy. It is not clear whether this view is shared by the entire government, including Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt                                                                    (Photo:Pawel Flato/Government Offices

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt (Photo:Pawel Flato/Government Offices

So far, the issue of economic sanctions has been controversial within the EU. Sweden is one of the countries with reservations about their effectiveness, and the consequences should the EU take such a decision without agreement in the UN Security Council. Carl Bildt has earlier spoken out against sanctions, warning that “to isolate Iran even more is to lock them in among the dark forces”.

Most likely the E3 (France, Germany, and the UK) will tomorrow inform other EU governments about consultations with the US, Russia and China yesterday. Maybe the big three will seek support for stricter economic sanctions as the next step.

Since the Italian Presidency in 2003, the E3 (and to some extent, Javier Solana), has had a mandate to conduct negotiations on the nuclear issue with Iran on the EU´s behalf. No EU Presidency from other member states has played a significant role in these negotiations.

Economic sanctions are something else, however. The Swedish EU Presidency will be keen not to be sidestepped in such discussions. This is perhaps the most sensitive issue at the Gymnich meeting.

My qualified guess is that the Swedish government will play down the Iran issue when talking to the media during the informal Stockholm meeting, maybe stating that it is not yet mature. A conclusive discussion on sanctions will be relevant only later this autumn, the message might be, after consultations in connection with the UN General Assembly on Iran´s response.

Instead, the media spin on Gymnich will probably be based on Carl Bildt´s recent visit to Afghanistan and Javier Solana´s report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Important issues.

Still, Sweden´s ability to keep the EU together on the issue of sanctions towards Iran will be a decisive test for Carl Bildt.