Time for the EU to focus on achieving green recovery
The EU must show its commitment to energy efficiency, biodiversity and the developing world ahead of the UN climate change conference says the Swedish Environment Minister.
The financial crisis has sent shockwaves around the world and it will largely set the political context in which the EU's environmental policy will evolve over the next few years.
Sweden sees the crisis as a historic opportunity to speed up the "greening" of our economy and lay the foundation for low-carbon and eco-efficient growth. As the holder of the EU presidency for the next six months, Sweden will try to shape environmental policy so that it also contributes to the economy's recovery and long-term competitiveness.
Our efforts to green the EU's economy will focus on energy efficiency, one of the four environmental priorities of our presidency. This issue cuts across sectors and we will explore the potential for synergies that could ensure the economy is both competitive and sustainable. We will hold informal meetings of energy, environment and competitiveness ministers to discuss how policy agendas on climate change, energy efficiency, innovation and competitiveness can be combined.
Ecosystems are also in crisis. In Europe that is evident in the Baltic Sea - a region that will be another priority for our presidency. Countries in the region need to implement EU laws better, but the situation also requires the EU to implement co-ordinated policies. Sweden will try to lead the EU to a macro-regional strategy that will address themes such as the environment, prosperity, accessibility and security.
Europe's biodiversity will be a third environmental priority. The EU needs to help build up a global response to the ecosystem crisis, as agreed in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. We need to demonstrate our commitment towards the convention's 2010 target, which calls for a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss. The EU set itself a biodiversity target for 2010 and environment ministers will assess the EU's performance and decide on follow-up action this autumn. Sweden wants the EU to renew its long-term vision for biodiversity and find synergies with its responses to climate change.
And it is to climate change that I will devote most of my time during the presidency. Above all, Sweden will focus on preparing the EU's position in a bid to achieve a comprehensive global agreement on climate change at United Nations talks in Copenhagen in December. The EU needs to go into those discussions having taken swift and ambitious steps, as set out in the EU's climate and energy package agreed last December. All member states - as well as candidate counties and would-be candidate countries - need to be prepared to accept binding commitments to meet specific emissions-reduction goals.
The speed at which emissions from developing countries are growing must be addressed at Copenhagen. Low-carbon development is possible and developing countries have a chance to avoid decades of dependence on fossil fuels. The EU must therefore facilitate low-carbon development. This can mainly be achieved, we believe, using market-based instruments. But however successful the new regime, climate change will be destructive. The EU must therefore be prepared to protect vulnerable communities. Those measures will need to be vast in scale.
That means that the EU must be prepared to spend more. Official development assistance must increase so that developing countries build up their capacity to address the climate-change challenge, but funding for adaptation must go far beyond that. We will pursue the goal of making the EU's financial response adequate, sustainable and part of a new, global financing architecture for climate change.
Ultimately, to act on climate change is to make development possible. Climate change places all countries, developed and developing, in the same boat: we all need to find ways to develop using less energy and consuming smaller amounts of fossil fuel. All states need to steer themselves and each other to a sustainable, low-carbon society.