FT: Europe Shifting Away From Climate Agenda

  • Date: 18/04/13
  • Joshua Chaffin, Pilita Clark and Neil Hume, Financial Times

The EU Parliament’s vote is only the latest evidence of how a crisis-hit continent’s appetite for climate change policies appears to be fading fast.

Not long after the European parliament cast doubt on the future of the EU’s key policy to confront global warming, José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, huddled with his climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, in the VIP lounge at Strasbourg airport.

Mr Barroso, according to people present, reassured Ms Hedegaard that he remained absolutely committed to tackling climate change – in spite of MEPs’ rejection of her plan to prop up the EU’s troubled carbon market.

But beyond the confines of that room, Tuesday’s vote has provoked much soul searching about the bloc’s devotion to an issue that once topped its agenda and shaped its self-image.

Four years ago, in the run-up to the international climate conference in Copenhagen, Mr Barroso and other EU leaders pledged publicly and repeatedly to lead the world in the fight against global warming. They touted the EU emissions trading scheme as the hub of what would one day be a global carbon market.

Their embrace of the climate issue cast a halo over the European project as a benign and collaborative force for good in the world. “It was an integral part of the brand,” said Tom Brookes, director of the European Climate Foundation.

These days, it is accepted – even by climate warriors like Mr Brookes – that global warming has been consigned to a seat in the waiting room while the EU tends to a chronic economic crisis that has threatened the single currency and increased unemployment. [...]

Tuesday’s vote is only the latest evidence of how a crisis-hit continent’s appetite for climate change policies appears to have faded in recent months.

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