Pawel Flato)

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt (Photo: Pawel Flato)

Two key members of the Swedish government – the Prime Minister and the Environment Minister – appeared last week to adopt contrasting tones when commenting on the EU’s expectations of other parties at the forthcoming climate negotiations in Copenhagen.

Sweden currently holds the EU’s rotating Presidency, and over the last few months it has been outlining the bloc’s position on the Copenhagen negotiations that will take place later this year. Much of what the Swedish ministers said has followed the broad outlines of the European Commission’s January communication on a global deal – significant absolute cuts for developed countries, reductions compared to business-as-usual for developing countries, and reform of the CDM.

As recently as last week the Swedish Environment Minister, Andreas Carlgren, repeated similar opinions in a press conference. He described the proposed climate legislation currently being debated in the US as promising, but not ambitious enough. He also called on large emerging economies to be prepared to reduce their emissions by as much as 30% below business-as-usual projections.

Meanwhile, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt was reported to have indicated that a less exacting set of commitments could be sufficient for an international agreement. The Prime Minister echoed Minister Carlgren’s view that the positions expressed by both the US and major developing countries were not satisfactory. However, he also went on to suggest that Europe needed to be ‘open to other types of solutions’ besides binding targets, including special terms for China and theUS.

Without seeing the full interview with Prime Minister Reinfeldt it is difficult to know exactly how different the substance of his comments was from the Environment Minister’s. But the difference in tone underlines the nature of the EU’s role in this year’s negotiations.

During the build-up to last year’s Pozna? conference all eyes were on the EU as it tried to finalise its politically ambitious Climate and Energy Package. By committing itself back then to a 20% cut in emissions by 2020, it has deliberately played its hand early. Its role (at least in public) is now effectively limited to maintaining political pressure on other countries to follow suit, and trying to retain its reputation as a global leader on climate change.

This may go some way to explain the Swedish Ministers’ good cop / bad cop stances last week: the EU is on one hand eager to articulate an ambitious vision for a global deal, while also pragmatically laying the ground for a compromise position if (or, rather, when) China and the US fail to offer what the EU has previously said it wants of them.

Europe will not have the leading role in this year’s drama at Copenhagen – China and the US will be centre stage instead. But there is no doubt that the EU’s Swedish Presidency will want to ensure that it continues to be seen and heard all the way to the final act.

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