Europe Bypassed on Climate Summit

December 3, 2009 at 10:24 AM Leave a comment

No political entity has pushed harder for the Copenhagen conference on climate change to succeed than the European Union.

But just days before the opening of the United Nations-sponsored meeting, the Europeans have been largely pushed to the sidelines, watching as the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, China and the United States, seek to set the rules of the game.

“That’s of course the unfortunate situation for Copenhagen,” said Jo Leinen, a German member of the European Parliament who is leading the chamber’s delegation to the conference that is intended to follow up on the soon-to-expire Kyoto Protocol. “It’s turning into a bit of a ping-pong match between China and the United States, with each just looking at the other,” he said.

Europeans say they have gone further than anybody else in moving toward a low-carbon economy that could serve as a model for the rest of the world. But the bloc’s ability to exercise global influence through progressive standards and moral leadership, rather than through superpower status, is facing a key test.

“The E.U. frankly doesn’t have the political clout to determine the outcome at Copenhagen,” said Peter Haas, a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

The E.U. still has much at stake in Copenhagen, however. It is facing huge pressure, Mr. Haas added, to “keep the prospects of a global deal alive so that European business leaders and voters believe they are on track to take advantage of green technology markets of the future.”

That will be a challenge. The E.U. remains internally divided on key issues, among them how much to pay developing countries to limit emissions and how deeply to cut their own output.

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Entry filed under: Climate Change, Conservation, Energy, National News. Tags: , , , , .

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