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Climate Change

The Road to Copenhagen

Published tisdag 21 juli 2009 kl 11.12

When Sweden took over the European Union presidency, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt made clear that one of the priorities would be the climate issue.

Reinfeldt and other world leaders are gearing up for The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009 in December, in which they hope to agree on a new global climate agreement.


The goal is to find solutions in order to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, compared to from pre-industrial levels, according to COP15.

The so-called Kyoto Protocol of 1997, which focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in the industrialized countries expires in 2012 and needs to be replaced. The hope is to agree on an agreement with stricter goals and one that applies to the whole world.

But reducing greenhouse gas emissions comes with a price tag, scientists and politicians say.

Tough questions as how to share the financial burden and how to agree on realistic and fair percentages of emission reductions for different nations will be on the table in Copenhagen in the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Norway, for example, has suggested that a certain percentage of money, coming from emission licences, should be used, says Liljelund. One suggestion in the EU is that allocations from each country should be decided based on the nation’s historical pollution and existing GDP, something that is contested by Poland, according to an article in Dagens Nyheter.

Reinfeldt has a very demanding task on his hands, which aims at both internal, as well as global cooperation, says General Director Lars-Erik Liljelund, who is the prime minister’s representative of climate issues.

“Our role will be to negotiate for all 27 [EU] countries, leading up to and during the Copenhagen conference, as well as representing all 27 countries,” Liljelund says.

The EU committed early to focus on the climate and has now promised at least a 20 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 (counting from 1990.) And Reinfeldt has said EU could up the promise to 30 percent, depending on the response and cooperation of other nations at the December conference.

Until then, a string of meetings on the topic are scheduled in The U.S., South Africa and China, and the most current, an informal environment minister meeting, is scheduled for Åre, Sweden July 23 to 25.

Some ask what role a small nation like Sweden can play in a global process, engaging a whole world at the moment. Liljelund says despite its size, about 9 million citizens, Sweden is one of the pioneers in highlighting the environment questions.

“We were the first in the world to establish a specific ministry of the environment, for example,” he says.

Perhaps most important question is whether the politicians will do the walk or just talk the talk. Rajendra Pachauri, IPCC chairman, the UN’s climate panel, which won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore, in 2007, said earlier this year that scientists can analyze and provide facts, but in the end, it’s the politicians that have to act on it.

“I am afraid that it is something that involves value judgment on the part of policy makers, and I am afraid that they shied away from it,” he said earlier this year at a conference. “It is time to take action.” (MB)

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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