Stavros Dimas, EU Commissioner for the Environment; Martin Bursik, Minister for the Environment, Czech Republic; Andreas Carlgren, Minister for the Environment, Sweden; and Ned Helme, President of the Center for Clean Air Policy
A “TROIKA” of representatives from the European Union – Stavros Dimas, EU Commissioner for the Environment; Andreas Carlgren, Minister for the Environment, Sweden; and Martin Bursik, Minister for the Environment, Czech Republic, met with American counterparts this week in Washington, on March 16-17.
THE PURPOSE of the meetings was to establish contacts with the new administration and Congress. Included among their meetings were talks with President Obama’s assistant for energy and climate change, Carol Browner, and U.S. special envoy to climate change, Todd Stern. The three EU representatives also met with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).
ONE OF the Obama administration’s key priorities is the discussion on climate change. And after eight years of minor interest in this issue, it appears that President Obama and a majority of Congress will go forward with domestic action and international engagement.
THE NEXT UN climate treaty will be negotiated at the end of the year in Copenhagen. The European Union has set a strategy for reaching an agreement in the Danish capital, that would include setting global goals to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GNG) emissions and providing the basis to strengthen countries’ abilities to adapt to climate change, while inducing economic growth, innovation, reducing poverty and providing access to secure energy services.
ON MARCH 16, the EU representatives participated in a seminar at the Swedish Embassy’s House of Sweden. The seminar was titled “On the Road to Copenhagen: Transatlantic Perspectives on a New Climate Change Agreement.” The participants all agreed that there is now a window of opportunity for transatlantic dialogue on climate, a dialogue which has been missing for the last decade.
MARTIN BURSIK of the Czech Republic said that “it is an interesting and challenging time…we have been waiting so long for Carol Browner…Now countries like China, India, Brazil, Mexico and others can’t hide behind the United States.”
ANDREAS CARLGREN, who has held his environmental cabinet post since 2006, said he was proud that the EU has been in the forefront on climate issues, with ambitious targets. Mr. Carlgren also talked about “a new transatlantic partnership.” He pointed out that the renewable sector in Europe could create up to 1 million new jobs. Already in the early ’90s Sweden introduced a carbon tax, and the emission of carbon oxide decreased by ten percent. Mr. Carlgren also pointed out that due to high oil prices in the ’70s Sweden started to transform energy systems. Additionally, he talked about the importance of moving to “greening the economy,” with a goal of independence from fossil energy by 2030.
NED HELME, president of the Center for Clean Air Policy, stated that “Washington has become ‘Climate Center” after eight years of ‘Nuclear Winter’,” but mentioned that there could still be some problems with getting Congress to go along with the new environmental programs. However, the EU Commissioner for the Environment, Stavros Dimas, mentioned that he is encouraged by the signals from Congress and President Obama.
THE SEMINAR was arranged by House of Sweden, in cooperation with the Heinrich B?ll Stiftung (Foundation) of North America and the Brookings Institution.