Gdansk Summit must restore Europe’s climate leadership

“Poland, as host of the UN conference, must ensure that the EU can deliver a safer climate future. ”
Elise Ford
Oxfam’s Head of Brussels Advocacy Office
Published: 6 December 2008

The Gdansk summit between French President Sarkozy and Central and Eastern European leaders risks fundamentally undermining Europe’s ambition to credibly tackle climate change, international agency Oxfam said today.

“The lives and livelihoods of millions of poor people – who are least responsible for global emissions but are being hit first and hardest by climate change – are being put directly at risk because European leaders are watering down their ambitions, based on own narrow self-interests,” said Oxfam’s EU office head, Elise Ford.

President Sarkozy must not let member states such as Poland weaken the EU climate package and damage Europe’s international credibility. “It is important that Europe’s poorer countries are supported in their efforts to curb emissions, but this must not undermine Europe’s overall responsibility to cut its emissions by at least 30% by 2020 and help developing countries to tackle the devastating effects of climate change and curb their own emissions,“ said Ford.

Much of Eastern Europe still depends on coal – the dirtiest of sources – for much of their energy production. Poland is leading a rear-guard action against the auctioning of carbon permits, saying this will lead to dramatic increases in electricity prices. They want permits allocated to their electricity sectors for free.

Oxfam says this argument is an exaggeration made for effect. “Auctioning carbon permits would mean only a minor increase in power prices and instead offers a unique opportunity for eastern European countries to invest in green technology. Full auctioning will also put an end to the windfall profits that companies will continue to make if the allowances are given for free," Ford said.

“We need 100% full auctioning across all ETS sectors from 2013 as the best way to incentivise emissions cuts. By shying away from its responsibilities, the EU would send the wrong signal to other countries now locked in international climate negotiations in Poznan,” Ford said.

The Polish minister of Environment says that the Package is unjust towards poorer countries. ”The EU cannot just show internal solidarity, external solidarity is just as important. Countries like Bangladesh are in more desperate need of auctioning revenues. The richest European countries should contribute most to adaptation and mitigation in developing countries,” she said.

“Poland, as host of the UN conference, must ensure that the EU can deliver a safer climate future. The EU climate and energy package will test whether Europe can live up to its rhetoric and set the standard for the rest of the world. Poland and France, as President of the EU, hold the key to success in next week’s negotiations in Poznan. They can either leave the UN talks to flounder or set the course for a deal in Copenhagen through a clear demonstration of leadership.”