On March 23, GMF's Climate & Energy Program, along with the Heinrich Böll Foundation, hosted a roundtable breakfast event on why the EU failed to play a leadership role in Copenhagen and what the prospects are for an EU climate policy after the Lisbon Treaty. The event featured Piotr Maciej Kaczyński, research fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies, and Michaele Schreyer, board member of the Heinrich Böll Foundation and former EU commissioner for finance. Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, GMF senior director for policy programs, provided opening remarks, and Klaus Linsenmeier, executive director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Washington, moderated the discussion.
Kaczyński discussed how the EU could gain more leverage in the international climate debate by reforming its governance structure to present a more unified voice on the international stage. He argued that the current model of delegating a leadership role to the country holding the rotating EU presidency creates inflexibility and inefficiency and impedes trust among member states. The Lisbon Treaty, he said, will make external representation lie within the EU Commission or Council, not the rotating presidency. The EU Parliament will also have a formal right of consent over what is agreed to in the negotiations. Kaczyński also discussed how Copenhagen transformed the UN negotiations from environmental to foreign policy, and despite the outcome of COP15, the EU Council wants to stick with the same negotiating structure and strategy. However, Connie Hedegaard, in her new position in charge of climate at the EU Commission, will likely act as the main interlocutor with third parties. Kaczyński argued that it will be important for Europe to streamline its external communications, and the task for COP16 in Cancun this December is to coordinate the 28 European voices.
Schreyer argued that there is ambivalence in strengthening EU power in the Lisbon Treaty, as the Treaty is full of subsidiary provisions and a renationalization of politics. There has been a power shift, he noted, from the West to the South and East, and the EU must come to the table with a unified voice in order to be a key player in the negotiations. Schreyer thought Copenhagen was a failure in governance; however the U.S. may view the outcome more optimistically. There was a clear difference in expectations and perhaps ambition between Europe and the United States heading into COP15. Schreyer said that the EU was angling for an international treaty with legally binding commitments, while the United States celebrated Obama's meaningful engagement and willingness to actually negotiate with countries like India and China. Could there have been a different outcome if Europe came to Copenhagen with more unified, efficient leadership? Probably not, Schreyer argued.
Participants at the roundtable then engaged in a lively debate and discussion with Kaczyński and Schreyer. Instead of looking inward to reform EU governance structure, participants suggested that the EU should start looking outward and develop a strategy on how to position itself globally and engage with new powers like China, India, and even the United States. Some noted that the EU needs to redefine its leverage in the debate; leading by example was not successful in Copenhagen. The EU also needs to take into account the bottom-up, voluntary system that emerged in Copenhagen.
Other participants suggested that the social democratic approach in Copenhagen failed. The successful model of the EU-ETS, where wealth is essentially transferred from larger, more powerful states to smaller ones, cannot translate on a global scale. Some said that EU leverage was gone in Copenhagen because no one asserted a leadership role. Europe overestimated U.S. ambition heading into Copenhagen. The EU's bargaining chip of conditionally raising reduced emissions to 30% was not a form of leadership, especially since countries that emit heavily were the ones that held the bargaining chips in Copenhagen (notably the United States and China). The international climate debate is unorganized and it's hard to predict what will happen in Cancun.
One participant went against the grain and argued that Europe should not view Copenhagen as a complete failure, but a success. Copenhagen was the first time China and the United States came to the table to negotiate and have a real, honest discussion about what future global climate policy could look like.