The EU played the decisive role in making progress towards a legally binding global deal on climate change this year – a significant victory for European diplomacy.
Although the 2010 climate talks in Cancún, Mexico, made some progress in healing divisions left over from the calamitous 2009 summit in Copenhagen, many analysts expected little from climate change talks in Durban in December. Two issues dominated the agenda. First, would developed countries commit to an extension of the Kyoto Protocol, which currently regulates carbon emissions but places no obligations on developing countries including China and India? Second, would the emerging economies commit to a legally binding global deal on carbon emissions to replace Kyoto at some point in the future? Among the signatories to the Kyoto Protocol, EU member states were strongly in favour of extending it as a quid pro quo for securing a broader deal, but Canada, Japan and Russia expressed concerns about the economic disadvantages. With the US outside the Kyoto agreement, this was a multilateral process in which the EU had the potential to play a decisive role.
Led by Denmark, Poland (which held the EU presidency) and Sweden, as well as France, Germany and the UK, the EU maintained a united front in favour of extending Kyoto. The EU negotiated as a bloc, and its primary negotiator, Climate Change Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, enjoyed a high level of credibility in Durban. However, the three-week talks began badly. It appeared that neither China nor India were ready to commit to any legal deal in the future. The talks overran, but at the last moment Hedegaard and her counterparts agreed a compromise by which Kyoto would be extended while developing countries promised to agree a “legal outcome” by 2015 that would come into force in 2020. Critics accused the EU of accepting a weak agreement, and Canada announced that it would exit Kyoto. But the Europeans – with US backing in the final days – made diplomatic progress where none seemed likely. Although imperfect, the deal was a significant victory for European diplomacy.
|Leaders: Denmark - France - Germany - Poland - Sweden - United Kingdom|
|Slackers: Bulgaria - Estonia|