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16/11/2011 Jo Leinen: "Signing a second Kyoto Protocol will be the key success, or failure, of the Durban conference"

While several commentators are already predicting the failure of the Durban summit which will start on November 28th in South Africa, the European Parliament has stated that it is in favour of continuing the Kyoto Protocol after 2012. The EP resolution was adopted by 532 votes in favour, 76 against and 43 abstentions. Jo Leinen, MEP and president of both the Environment Committee and the EP delegation for Durban, discusses the issues in this resolution.

Toute l’Europe: You have stated that continuing the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012 will be the determining factor in whether the Durban Summit is a success or a failure. What do you think the outcome of negotiations will be?

Jo Leinen
: The EU must be ambitious – this is our role in the UN negotiations. The position of the EU is clearly in favour of a second term for the Kyoto Protocol. We are going to try and rally other stakeholders and other countries around our position. This will be difficult but not impossible. Developing countries and emerging economies have seen our greenhouse gas emissions increase. It is therefore completely justified that industrialised countries give themselves a second chance by establishing a second period of binding obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I believe that signing a second Kyoto agreement will be the key success, or failure, of the Durban conference.

As always, there will be a lot of back and forth during negotiations. The result of these negotiations will become apparent probably on Friday or Saturday night at the very end of the summit. I remain optimistic about the outcome of these negotiations as I believe that countries are aware that humanity cannot allow itself to fail again. In fact, we are already seeing the effects of climate change in the abundance of extreme flooding, hurricanes, droughts etc. Let’s not forget that greenhouse gases increased by 6% in 2010 compared to 2009 levels. As such, it is of paramount importance that we progress, not regress.

Toute l’Europe: Is it necessary to maintain the same objectives that are in the current Kyoto Protocol, particularly with regard to the “right to pollute”? Do we perhaps need to go further?

Jo Leinen
: The principles and instruments of the Kyoto Protocol are still valid. However, we need to review two specific problems.

On the one hand, the clean development mechanism which involves companies in industrialised countries investing or running projects in developing countries. This investment can have a positive effect on the developing country as they can benefit from the companies’ advanced technologies. Within this mechanism though, there has been a lot of fraudulent activity – particularly in China. Operations have been validated that offer absolutely no reduction in greenhouse gas emission and some have even represented an increase. So it is necessary to clarify how this mechanism should work.

Toute l’Europe: Member States had a great deal of difficulty in reaching common positions during the last Environment Council on October 10th. What do you think of the compromise that was adopted?

Jo Leinen
: It is true that our position was clearer before the Copenhagen Summit but the economic and financial crisis is weighing heavily on some European countries. Certain countries are therefore reticent about supporting the EU’s ambitious position. A balance must be found between those countries that are already at an advanced stage and those that are finding it more difficult. This situation is well understood and is being resolved. Finding this balance will enable compromise be reached among the 27 Member States and will ensure that the EU speaks in one unified voice. Without the EU, there cannot be progress at global level in these climate change negotiations. Leadership is required and the EU must take a leading role otherwise hope will be lost.

Furthermore, two of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases are China and the United States. They both remain deadlocked when it comes to signing up to an agreement within the UN. However, at national level in these countries, advances are being made in the area of new technologies and research into green technology. These new investments are positive for protecting the climate. They are also a part of the ongoing competitiveness in industrial development. Europe must ensure that it does not enter into this competition and that it remains ambitious. Our rules also give industry clarity so that it can plan investment. This also creates a significant amount of employment.

What’s more, there is a problem with the compensation mechanism for exporting emissions quotas, known as “hot air”. There are millions of certificates that were issued in the first period of the Kyoto Protocol when the United States was not a part of the “carbon market”. Countries such as Russia, the Ukraine and even Eastern European countries that are now EU Member States (Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Bulgaria etc.) issued an enormous amount of certificates with falsified results. From now on, the United States is part of the “carbon market” and the system needs to be reviewed.

Toute l’Europe: During the conference, the EU will be represented by the Polish Presidency, the President of the European Council and by a European Parliament delegation. What role will you play within this delegation at the conference?

Jo Leinen
: I believe that civil society wants to play a greater role in Europe and in other areas. Citizens are demanding more and more concrete action. MEPs, as direct representatives of citizens, are there to push for these demands. We will therefore be present to support citizens’ demands and to lobby for them.


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