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Still in Denial

December 20th, 2007

Back from Bali and straight into the tough negotiations on the Commission’s proposal on CO2 emissions from cars. More on this in a later posting – but just to say that this is exactly the type of measure that is needed to turn the rhetoric of UN meetings into real reductions of greenhouse gasses.

Was Bali a success or a failure? The press have spent a lot of newsprint arguing both sides and I would personally call the result a “qualified success”. The EU achieved its main objective: we reached agreement to launch formal negotiations on a global agreement for the period after 2012 (when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol ends). And we decided to end these negotiations in 2009 – which is important as it gives a sense of urgency to the negotiations. Bali was also important because the USA engaged itself to sit at the negotiating …

Bali Report: the political work begins

December 12th, 2007

The high level segment of the climate change conference started today.  Interesting speeches from ministers and other high officials and most of them demonstrated good will and a readiness to make the Bali Roadmap a reality. 

Our host, the Indonesian president, put it very well when he spoke of the need to put meat on the bones of the framework convention.  It was also very impressive to see how other delegates drew inspiration from the results of the IPCC report to point to the massive challenge of containing climate change. I am certain that everybody in the plenary room understood how high the stakes were – which is an essential first step.

Outside the plenary the discussions between experts continued. But it is now up to the political level to take responsibility for the success of this meeting. The Indonesian hosts decided to create a small group of ministers to tackle the …

Bali report: Kyoto’s 10th anniversary

December 11th, 2007

Today is the 10th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol.  For this reason it is a day to celebrate, but also to recall us how serious the threat of climate change really is and how difficult it can be to find international agreement.

Negotiations here in Bali been slow, but we have been able to agree on the main features of the Adaptation Fund.  That is good news.  However, there are still many of the discussion points that remain on the agenda for the high level part of the meeting, which starts tomorrow.

I spent most of the day in bi-lateral discussions in order to help move the negotiations along.  I also met with representatives of the NGOs from around the world to get their perspectives on our work.  This broad coalition of NGOs brings together the views of millions of citizens who care about our planet.  In these types of meetings NGOs …

Bali: We Mean Business

December 10th, 2007

Greetings from Bali – where ministers from around the world are meeting to set the agenda for a future climate change regime starting in 2013.  The negotiations will not be easy and will be made more difficult by the refusal by some developed countries to agree to binding emissions reductions targets. 

The European Union will be a major player in bringing about such an agreement and is leading by example – which gives our negotiating position much more credibility. At the political level, the EU has already come forward with binding targets for deep emissions reductions by 2020. At the practical level, we are already working towards these targets through various measures such as the emissions’ trading system (which many other countries are now looking to copy). 

I am leading the Commission delegation here in Bali.  Together with the Portuguese Presidency, the EU …

Green to Grow

November 30th, 2007

It is a very interesting exercise to compare what was being said by industry when I took office in 2004 and what they are saying now.

Three years ago climate change was still seen as a “green issue”.  It was important – but nowhere near the top of the political agenda. Corporate interest in cutting emissions was limited to a few sectors such as renewable energy. Many companies worried about a potential loss of competitiveness. A number of influential companies were actively lobbying against legislation to reduce emissions. Some were even funding campaigns to discredit the scientific evidence.

We are now on the final miles of the Road to Bali and it seems that the world has been turned upside down. Prime ministers who oppose Kyoto are being voted out of office. And business is now realising that there are huge competitive opportunities from being at the head of the inevitable shift …

Wealth and Well-Being

November 22nd, 2007

Hurricane Katrina swept in off the Atlantic on 29 August 2005. Its effects were dramatic: 1,800 people lost their lives, 80% of New Orleans was flooded, and the damage has been calculated at 80 billion dollars. But the reconstruction activities that followed means that measured in terms of its effect on GDP, Katrina was “a success”.

At the beginning of this week I hosted the conference “Beyond GDP” which aimed at finding a better way to measure the true wealth and well-being of nations. It was very encouraging that what could have been seen as a rather academic subject really captured the imagination. Over 600 people from 53 countries came to the event and President Barroso from the Commission and President Pöttering from the European Parliament delivered the key note addresses.

The public, the press and politicians all need clear and simple indicators to understand if progress is being made (or …

Pollution and China

November 15th, 2007

I met last week with Zhang Zhijun – the Chinese Vice-Minister for International Relations. It was a fascinating meeting and touched on issues that ranged from democracy to trade.
In China, 25 years of breakneck economic growth has dramatically improved the quality of life of many millions. But it has been at the expense of poisoning much of the country. Some 20% of land is affected by soil erosion. 75% of lakes and almost all coastal waters are classified as polluted. 90% of grasslands are degraded. China is home to 16 of the world’s 20 most-polluted cities.
According to a World Bank report the total cost of air and water pollution – in terms of clean-up costs and the damage to human health – is almost 6% of Chinese GDP and pollution causes the premature deaths of 760,000 people each year.
Pollution is a major concern for next year’s Olympics. In Bejing, …

Blogging and the environment

October 30th, 2007

Blogging about and for the environment has become one of the most popular activities on the internet, where people can freely exchange their ideas, bring forward their concerns and participate in a kind of global movement.
As such it links well with the “hands on” activities and campaigns of organisations like Greenpeace, WWF, Friends of the Earth, and others.
They have world-wide networks of activists and experts who do an excellent job of raising the profile of green issues.
It is remarkable that in the UK the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has over 1 million paying members… which is more than the combined total for all British political parties. But we shouldn’t forget that also smaller and local level NGOs are doing important work. Today they all – big and small – link up with each other via the internet. But there is more.
Blogs, for example, …

Hunting and the Law

October 23rd, 2007

Last week’s web chat was a great success. A lot of interesting comments and opinions … and from the statistics on web-traffic it was one of the busiest sites on the EU server. Thanks to all those who contributed.

One of the themes that came through in the chat was the need for better implementation of EU environmental law. This is particularly topical since at last week’s meeting of the College of Commissioners we discussed a big package of infringement measures – the in-house term for legal proceedings against Member States.

Going to Court is a last resort since we always prefer to discuss and explain in order to find an agreed solution to existing problems. But at the same time one of the basic jobs of the European Commission is to enforce EU law. And where there is no other solution I have made it clear that I will use the …

International Blog Action Day (2)

October 15th, 2007


Dear bloggers,

Thank you for the very broad range of questions and commentaries you’ve sent in this afternoon. It has been a fine way to mark international Blog Action Day and your strong interest greatly encourages me in my work! We have covered a lot of ground in the past three hours but I’m conscious that I haven’t managed to answer all your questions during this session. I will do so as soon as possible in the next few days.

I hope to do another chat soon. In the meantime please keep your contributions coming!

Best wishes,


International Blog Action Day

October 12th, 2007

To mark the first international Blog Action Day – dedicated to environmental issues – I will be holding an internet chat here on my blog on Monday 15 October between 1400 and 1700 Brussels time (1200-1500 GMT).

The goal of international Blog Action Day is to achieve mass participation in addressing environmental problems by getting bloggers around the world to post entries on environmental issues that day. More than 9,000 blog sites have signed up!

This is an excellent initiative that will help to raise public awareness of the serious environmental challenges we face and to involve citizens in Europe and the rest of the world in contributing to solutions. These are also the aims of my blog.

The environment has become a pressing concern for many, so this internet chat is a great opportunity for us to communicate directly on an issue of strong mutual interest. I hope many of you …

A tropical disease moves north

October 9th, 2007

When we think about the effects of climate change it is often the images of polar bears and melting glaciers that come to mind. Or it is thought of as something that will only really happen in 20 years time or more. But when I met with Hilary Benn last week – the UK minister for environment and agriculture – one of the issues we discussed was the fact that the animal disease called “blue-tongue” has arrived in the UK for the first time.

This disease is completely new in northern Europe. It originated in the Africa and in the 1990’s was found in the Mediterranean. But as the climate has warmed over the last decade the disease has been able to move north. The first cases in Belgium were recorded last year and now it has crossed the channel.

With blue-tongue it is Europe’s livestock farmers, here and now, …

Voluntary Emission Targets do not Work

October 2nd, 2007

Welcome to my blog.

Web sites can be at the cutting edge of the environmental debate and I will be posting on a weekly basis to share my thoughts on the European Union and in particular on the main environmental issues.

I very much look forward to readers being a source of new ideas … but most importantly I would like the blog to help build public awareness of environmental issues. Once public opinion is mobilised then politicians and businesses are usually quick to follow.

Climate change is one area where opinions are already clear. In a recent survey, 89% of the public agreed that the European Union should urgently put in place new policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is hardly surprising, because with climate change we are facing a catastrophe. This summer we have seen extreme weather in Europe: …