Debt crisis hampers EU's Doha hopes
The European Union's debt crisis has sapped its ability to lead the way in global climate talks, which began in Doha today, and build on a fragile victory it clinched a year ago.
The European Union is one of the few participants to have promised to sign up to a second emissions-cutting period under the Kyoto process, the only international pact on tackling climate change.
But European climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard's drive to keep Europe at the vanguard of the global effort has been sabotaged at home and abroad by the debt crisis, which has drained energy or inclination for anything else.
In Europe, some EU member states, the heavy industry lobby and those within the EU executive who echo its views have steadily chipped away at Ms Hedegaard's attempts to legislate against carbon, arguing they are unaffordable in cash-strapped times.
She was also forced to yield to international pressure, led by the United States, and freeze the EU requirement that all aviation using EU airports pay for emissions under the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme. That means only internal EU flights are bound by its rules for now.
Green campaigners and politicians say Europe and everyone else is losing the chance to invest in sustainable growth and to slow the pace of global warming while there is time.
The EU needs "to wake up from the slumber it has been in for the past few years," Green member of the European Parliament Satu Hassi said.
"The EU Commission's proposal to suspend the enforcement of the emissions trading system for flights outside the EU is a major source of regret," she added.
The European Parliament, which in the EU decision-making machinery has limited power, has pushed for well over a year for a higher EU carbon-cutting target, arguing the bloc is already on course to meet its goal of a 20 per cent reduction by 2020 and it therefore represents is no ambition at all.
Ms Hedegaard has admitted to frustration, but says she will not give up. The law on aviation, she insists, is only frozen - not rescinded - pending an international deal to provide an alternative way of curbing airline emissions.
Europe and the rest of the world, she says, must not use economic and financial crisis as an excuse for inaction.
"The world is losing precious time," she said in a statement ahead of the two weeks of talks in the Qatari capital Doha. "Doha must build on the breakthrough we achieved in Durban."