In line with expectations, EU leaders did not make any substantial progress on agreeing their Copenhagen negotiating position in their Council meeting last week.

The Euroepan Council at work among the colourful graphics of the Czech Presidency, March 2009.

The Euroepan Council at work among the colourful graphics of the Czech Presidency, March 2009.

The formal conclusions of the summit run to twenty-three pages, of which only four paragraphs address the international climate negotiations. The discussions were dominated by economic stimulation measures and tightening regulation of the finance sector. Energy security also featured on the agenda, as this was the first Council meeting since the latest Russian-Ukranian gas crisis.




The Council took the opportunity to reiterate the EU’s official position on a global deal in Copenhagen and to mention its opinion that the CDM needs to be reformed. It also flagged the thorny issue of financing international mitigation and adaptation (particularly in least developed countries), but again without making any firm commitments or proposals for how this burden should be shared.

A debate in the European Parliament on the agenda of the Council meeting gave similarly minimal attention to the climate change negotiations, suggesting that it’s not just the EU heads of state who don’t see this issue as a priority just yet.

This apparent political inaction doesn’t necessarily indicate a cooling of enthusiasm on Europe’s part. Last year saw a similar pattern of delaying the most difficult decisions until as late as possible, culminating in a frenzy of high-level talks in November and December in an effort to reach agreement before the end of the Pozna? conference. As Climatico’s Simon Billett noted at the time, it can be useful for UNFCCC participants to wait until other countries have revealed more of their own intentions before clarifying their own position.

There will be plenty of other opportunities for the EU to add some policy flesh to these very bare bones as the year proceeds. The Council will return to the issue in its next meeting in June, but whether the outcome of that meeting will be any more substantive remains to be seen.

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