Dark clouds gathering over Copenhagen

13/09/2009

 

Recently, a high level Japanese delegation visited Brussels to discuss environmental co-operation. One of the guests confided in a Commission colleague: `The technical parts of the climate negotiations are so complicated. Can´t we do more on common policy measures to achieve clearer results? ´

It is easy to understand the feeling. Negotiations within the climate convention are technically complicated and are proceeding extremely slowly.

An agreement at the December meeting in Copenhagen is the most important goal for the Swedish EU Presidency. But dark clouds are gathering.

Copenhagen harbour. Photo: Stock.xchng

Copenhagen harbour. Photo: Stock.xchng

Few rich countries have matched the EU commitments for 2020. Growing economies like China and India have still not made robust promises on limiting carbon emissions. The declaration from the G8 Summit in Italy did not provide enough momentum. Setting targets for 2050 and making promises on limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees C is not enough.

Swedish negotiators are also worried that the United States will not move fast enough this autumn. Barack Obama has to devote so much energy to the fight over health care reform.

The Commission proposal on financing last Thursday will not be enough to bridge the gap between developing and developed countries. It has already been criticized for not containing enough money and not being additional to earlier promises to increase development aid. When EU leaders meet for the informal European Council on Thursday they will discuss the financing in light of the upcoming G20 meeting in Pittsburgh. More needs to be done.

Financing is one key issue, mid-term emission targets another. The risk is that Fredrik Reinfeldt is so eager for a deal in Copenhagen that the Swedish Presidency does not put enough pressure on rich countries to agree robust emission targets. There is a risk than intense corporate lobbying for only setting long-term targets puts negotiations on the more important 2020 targets off track. If there is only a preliminary agreement in December, it must at least contain a commitment to agree targets for the rich countries during the spring of 2010.

It´s time also to put forward more ideas on `policies and measures´, as the term is in the climate convention. The Japanese visitor to Brussels was right. The Swedish Presidency should push both for 2020 emissions targets and for agreements on issues such as energy efficiency standards and renewable energy. Co-operating with the new, environmentally progressive, Japanese government is a promising way forward.

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Netherland

10/01/2009

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Joseph O´Neill concludes his critically acclaimed novel Netherland with a scene from the Staten Island ferry. Hans van den Broek, the main character, recollects the view over Manhattan during a trip with his mother a few years earlier:

“a world concentrated most glamorously of all, it goes almost without saying, in the lilac arches of two amazingly high towers going up above all others”

I finished reading Netherland  a few days after having taken the Staten Island ferry myself. It was, I must confess, my first visit to New York since early 2001. Of course I have read and heard much about the reactions to 9/11. Now, I visited the WTC Site and the provisional exhibition there. But is was first on the Staten Island ferry that I really was struck by the scar in the Manhattan skyline.

Netherland evolves around Hans, his family and the strange character of Chuck Ramkissoon the years after the Twin Towers collapsed. I found the main story and the characters somewhat disappointing, after the enthusiastic reviews. To me, Netherland lacks the magic of The Great Gatsby.

The strength of Joseph O´Neill novel is his way of describing people´s reaction to 9/11 in a subtle yet strong way. Reading the novel at the same time as visiting New York was an emotionally deep experience. I thought I had some comprehension of how Americans reacted to 9/11, but now it´s clear to me; such a trauma can only be fully understood by those who experience it first-hand.

Joseph O´Neill uses the game of cricket to connect Hans´world of investment banking to New Yorks taxi-drivers and restaurant workers. It is a clever way of describing the many facets of American life, including the darker sides.

One day, after having run into the wall of bureaucracy surrounding driving licenses, Hans steps out into the street:

“As I stood there, thrown by Herald Square´s flows of pedestrians and the crazed traffic diagonals and the gray, seemingly bottomless gutter pools, I was seized for the first time by a nauseating sense of America, my gleamingly adopted country, under the secret actuation of unjust, indifferent powers. The rinsed taxis, hssing over fresh slush, shone lika grapefruits; but if you looked down into the space between the road and the undercarriage, where icy matter stuck to pipes and water streamed down the mud flaps, you saw a foul mechanical dark.”

In O´Neill´s novel, Hans finally emerges from the chaos after 9/11. How far is the US, or the rest of the world?