News - Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, Belfer Center

European Commissioner Connie Hedegaard Speaks on Europe's View on International Climate Policy

  • Louisa Lund
| September 29, 2010

Connie Hedegaard, the first European Union Commissioner for Climate Action, spoke at the Harvard Kennedy School on Monday (September 20) on "Europe's View on International Climate Policy."

Hedegaard, who previously served as Denmark's Minister for Climate and Energy, spoke about Europe's hopes for international climate policy, what might be accomplished at the upcoming UN climate conference in Cancun, and the role the United States could play in furthering the development of robust international agreements.

Hedegaard emphasized the ways in which Europe's carbon reduction efforts have helped to foster the development of green industries in Europe.

At the same time, she made it clear that Europe's ambition was to see the United States and other large economies commit to joining in an international carbon reduction effort, calling the lack of U.S. climate legislation a "tremendous challenge" for international climate negotiations. Hedegaard stressed the importance of achieving a balanced agreement, in which everybody contributes their fair share. "The United States and the major economies must play their full part if the world is to have a chance of averting dangerous climate change," Hedegaard warned.

In looking forward to the December conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Cancun, the Commissioner called for a realistic and practical approach that would consolidate the achievements of the last conference, in Copenhagen in December 2009, and avoid backsliding. Specific issues she hopes to see addressed include building on the carbon reduction pledges individual countries made as part of the follow-up to the Copenhagen conference, reaching agreement on reporting and verification mechanisms for reductions, and reaching agreements on forestry and adaptation measures.

Without participation by the United States and China, the European Union will not sign up for a second commitment period under the Kyoto Agreement, Hedegaard stated.  However, the European Union would, in any case, very much like to expand the current European Emissions Trading System to integrate with a U.S. domestic cap-and-trade system and, eventually, with emerging economies.

Commissioner Hedegaard also highlighted an upcoming issue related to Europe's efforts to expand the scope of its carbon regulations by bringing civil aviation into the European Emissions Trading System, beginning in 2012. She noted that this proposal would affect international aviation, but urged non-European countries not to become obstacles to Europe's effort to curb emissions growth in this area.

Hedegaard closed by urging the United States to pass climate legislation. "My fear is that the prospects of reaching our destination will remain slim as long as the United States delays passing climate legislation," a step she described as "squarely in the Unites States' own economic interest."

Robert Stavins, Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government and Director of the Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements, commented on the presentation. Stavins gave his perspective on the current status of international climate negotiations and on what might count as success in the upcoming talks in Cancun, which he saw as incremental steps forward to establishing a solid framework for future international agreements, including following up on the principles established in the non-binding Copenhagen Accord, supported by most UNFCCC members at the last conference, and focusing on areas ripe for successful sub-agreements, such as in international forestry.

The discussion was moderated by William Hogan, the Raymond Plank Professor of Global Energy Policy. The event was jointly sponsored by the Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements and the Consortium for Energy Policy Research at Harvard.

For more information on this publication: Please contact Harvard Project on Climate Agreements
For Academic Citation: Lund, Louisa. “European Commissioner Connie Hedegaard Speaks on Europe's View on International Climate Policy.” News, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, Belfer Center, September 29, 2010.

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