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Comment: European Spring Summit delays position for climate talks

Date
20 March 2009

The Spring European Council concluded today by deferring until June or later a decision on the EU's position for global climate talks, which culminate in the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in December.

The first UNFCCC talks of 2009 are to start in Bonn on 30 March. A strong EU position, including a credible statement on financing, would have provided these talks with much-needed momentum, as only nine months remain until the Copenhagen Summit.

Instead the EU says it is postponing its decision until other nations, notably the US and China, give more clarity on their commitments for cutting greenhouse gases. This tactic could prove disastrous in progressing climate talks and undermines the EU's leadership on the matter.

Although the summit conclusions mention the need for funding and new finance mechanisms, Heads of State and Government failed to put concrete sums on the table to help developing countries combat climate change. They even appeared to dilute the conclusions drawn up by environment and finance ministers earlier this month, by omitting references to concrete financing mechanisms.

Despite finding themselves unable to discuss the fiscal effort required to deal with climate change, summit discussions were able to concentrate on the size of the fiscal stimulus required to tackle the economic crisis.

With these delays, Europe must now look to the Swedish Presidency commencing on 1 July to finalise the EU's position for Copenhagen and to agree a concrete plan for climate financing. The world meanwhile will be looking to other countries to step up to the plate.

Mark Kenber, Policy Director at The Climate Group said: "Europe cannot step back from its promise to take the lead on climate change. Concrete proposals on financing mechanisms must be made in parallel to economic stimulus discussions.

"Now is not the time to step back from taking firm positions; indeed countries need urgently to start working together on how, not whether, they will reach an agreement in Copenhagen that will put the world firmly on a low carbon path. The Swedish Presidency must up the ante and get the EU climate talks back on track."

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