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04/11/2011 Corinne Lepage: “ Regarding climate change, Europe has to be both a shining example and conscious of its own interests”

MEP Corinne Lepage (ALDE, France), a member of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, is critical of the G20 for obscuring the issue of climate change. This issue will nevertheless be one of the priorities of the French presidency. Just one month ahead of the Durban Summit which will decide on whether to continue the Kyoto Protocol, she expressed concerns about how negotiations are progressing.

Touteleurope.eu: What was your overall impression of the G20 Summit in Cannes?

Corinne Lepage: This meeting of the G20 became a G8! Discussions between Europe and the United States completely overshadowed the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). The Eurozone crisis pushed other important issues down the agenda such as financial regulation, financial transaction tax, fighting tax havens, regulating markets for raw materials etc.

Touteleurope.eu: The states involved were in agreement on the major points – the volatility of raw materials pricing, a stricter framework for bank bonuses etc.

C.L.: It remains to be seen how the decisions made will be applied particularly with regard to a regulatory framework for banks. After the last G20, it was expected that radical measures would be taken regarding tax havens. While it is true that there is nobody left on the blacklist and measures were taken regarding individual fortunes but regarding the organisation of multinational, absolutely nothing has changed.

Touteleurope.eu: Was it not right that the G20 would concentrate on the Eurozone crisis following Mr. Papandreou’s surprise decision to put the bailout plan to referendum?

C.L.: Indeed we had no choice. Europe was on the brink so time was of the essence. However, the timing was unfortunate. The G20 is usually for dealing with problems other than the Eurozone crisis. This also shines a light on the relationship between Europe and its partners. For example, the vital issue of Chinese currency devaluation was not even touched upon yet this is relevant not only to Europe. Furthermore, I am not alone in thinking that Europe has given away too much power by seeking China’s contribution to the bailout fund during the October 27th European Summit.

Touteleurope.eu: Several environmental NGOs have expressed disappointment on the lack of decisions made by the G20 on climate change.

 

The Durban Summit

The 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17) will take place in Durban (South Africa) from November 28th to December 9th 2011. Its main aim is to work out a mechanism to follow the Kyoto Protocol, the only restrictive instrument  to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which ends at the end of 2012.

C.L.: I am extremely concerned by the conditions in which the next United Nations Conference on climate change is taking place in Durban. The Cancun Conference of the previous year did raise hopes. The Mexican presidency worked miracles as it managed to broker an agreement as called for by developing countries and which involved some commitments by developed countries – in particular, contributing to a $100 billion fund. Here we are one year later and there has been almost zero progress made.

The financial transaction tax was one way of advancing this. I question the value of the diplomatic, coded language we use that involves debating ‘innovative financing’ when we need money and we don’t want to say where we are going to find it. Obviously this is a type of ‘Newspeak’ and it does not serve to advance matters. There are a limited number of ways that this fund can be created in today’s climate of budget deficits – either a carbon tax is created or a tax is put on financial transactions.

Touteleurope.eu: The big issue at stake at the Durban Summit is extending the Kyoto Protocol which requires signatory countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union seems somewhat isolated on this front...

The European Parliament’s Environment Committee adopted a resolution on October 27th calling on the EU to take leadership at the Durban Summit, to support continuation of the Kyoto Protocol after 2012 and to exceed the 20% objective for greenhouse gas reductions. The European Parliament will express its position on this resolution during the plenary session taking place from November 14th to 17th.

C.L.: Europe has shown a lot of goodwill and I am not alone in advocating for an attitude that means Europe is both a shining example and conscious of its own interests. If we want to maintain our leadership in all green industries, we will have to take the initiative. If we don’t, it simply won’t work.

Nonetheless, the fact remains that Europe is practically alone in advocating an extension of the Kyoto protocol. Yet Europe produces 11-12% of greenhouse gases and industry is putting heavy pressure on saying that we have to stop being naive. As such, I am worried about the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

The European Union can position itself as a leader but where will that lead? Let’s face the fact that even if Kyoto is extended and commitments are made, it is already very difficult to punish European industries which are already experiencing serious difficulties. Also, the most important element is to develop economic activities that move towards actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions rather than making big commitments that will not be kept. I am worried when I see the difference between the amount of investment into renewable energies or energy efficiency being made by China and South Korea compared to our poor investments.

I am of course in favour of making commitments but, at the same time, I am concerned about the lack of effectiveness in what Europe does. I am a realist in two ways – firstly, we should not have a different outcome for Chinese and American industries on the one hand and European ones on the other and secondly, Europe should not be the one supporting and upholding the treaties and conventions while other countries are investing hugely and eating up our market share.

Touteleurope.eu: What should we expect from the G20’s Mexican presidency on the issue of climate change?

C.L.: I was blown away by the Mexican presidency at the Cancun Summit! If Patricia Espinosa, Minister for Foreign Affairs, is still able to take leadership on these issues then we might be in for some surprises.

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