Copenhagen: From minor working bee to international climate action

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As we are dealing with a clean-up operation of global proportions, we must enlist all substantial carbon dioxide emitters to swing the broom.

In other words, the call for participation also goes out to the USA, China, Brazil, South Africa and India.

In an apartment building working bee, it is typical for a few enthusiastic neighbours to do the work of others as well. Most of those who bother to come are more interested in talking and the refreshments on offer than in the actual work itself. Some neighbours will make sure that they are otherwise engaged or they will simply observe the work through their curtains. This can strain the trusty workers to breaking point.

Now the EU is holding the broom handle and thinking of tough climate targets, and rightly so. But, in order to spread the burden evenly, all of the substantial emitter countries must come on board and sign the climate treaty. Signees should commit to concrete targets and timetables.

Unfortunately, it is impossible for the EU to resolve the climate problem through its own ambition alone. Unilateral emission reductions on the part of the EU risk causing carbon leakage – atrophying European industry while production operations move to countries with less stringent climate policies. In this, losers include both the climate and the prosperity and competence of Europe. 

The USA and many other significant emitter countries have not yet committed to common targets. It would be essential that the climate bill being prepared by the United States Congress promotes concrete measures, which would be comparable to the EU’s actions. In such a situation, climate policy would not distort the relative industrial competitiveness of our continents. It would, after all, be unfair if some were allowed to play the game fully kitted out while others had to tag along barefoot.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wants industrialised nations to cut their emissions by at least 80% by 2050. The USA has also committed to similar reduction figures and the nation’s decision makers have woken up to the importance of environmental protection, but commitments for the near future are still veiled in the dark.

The achievement of a comprehensive climate treaty in Copenhagen could at best lead to threefold global advantages: reduced emissions, a more equitable competitive situation for companies and a boost for the climate technology market.

Ahti Fagerblom,
From the land of the Little Mermaid

PS. Had I bumped into US President Barack Obama, I would have patted him on the back and told him how we Europeans are green. With envy. You see, the Americans are very good at building things, and they build a lot out of wood. What’s more, they have standardised wood construction and made it cost-effective and competitive by basing it on open building systems, while Europe stumbles behind with its national or even regional building regulations. Last year, the products made by Finnish sawmills bound about 20 times more carbon dioxide than was caused by their manufacture.

The author is in charge of energy and climate policy at the Finnish Forest Industries Federation and he is observing the decisions being made at the Copenhagen Climate Conference and the phenomena surrounding the event from land, water and air. Stay tuned to this channel for more on the climate conference as negotiations progress!