Letter: EU gives a lead at Berlin climate conference

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The Independent Online
Sir: It doesn't matter how you do it as long as you do it: that is, reduce the outlet of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. That was what, eight years ago, the Brundtland report said should be done. That was the agreement in Rio, three years ago, and that is the issue at the climate conference now taking place in Berlin.

The Berlin meeting must take us out of the sour mood of today's global environmental policy. A lot of fancy words are being said, but that is not enough. While we are talking the global climate is changing.

Climate chance is hard to grasp. On the one hand, it is small and abstract percentage figures on reductions of outlet; on the other hand, it is temperatures rising and very real icebergs that might start floating around in places where they do not belong.

But there is, gradually, general agreement that the greenhouse gases we are releasing will mean higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 30 to 40 years. Even if we stabilise the outlet, as we committed ourselves to do in Rio, the concentration in the atmosphere will keep rising. To stabilise this concentration, we would have to reduce the outlets by more than half.

There is no way out. Anything we fail to do now, we will have to pay for dearly in the future. That is why the Berlin conference has to produce results.

The EU has confirmed its stabilisation targets in Berlin. That is important, but we must keep up the pressure. The European Commission has agreed with me to try and reduce outlets by up to an additional 10 per cent before 2010. In this way, the EU gives a lead to other industrialised countries, which have a special responsibility since they account for by far the largest part of global carbon dioxide outlets.

I hope, and I expect, that other industrialised countries will join us in Berlin and make commitments to the international community. The conference could still lead to a commitment to new negotiations, which in turn will lead to new obligations for industrialised countries as well as for developing countries.

We agree on what has to be done but there is still too large a discrepancy between what we know we have to do and what we are willing to do. The last few days of Berlin must bring these two things together. Failure in Berlin would be a defeat for all. It would mean failing our common responsibility.

Yours faithfully,


Environment Commissioner

European Commission


31 March