If one had been hoping for clear signs of progress a week-and-a-half into Poznan and on the eve of a European Council meeting, where an ambitious EU climate agenda should have been finalised, this has not been the best week. German enthusiasm for action on Climate Changed has not only waned with the onset of the financial crisis, but, more or less, disappeared completely.
In parliament last week, Angela Merkel reasserted the EU’s ambition to push for an international agreement on Climate Change. She also defended the ‘compromise’ on car emissions as reflecting the need to secure jobs as well as CO² reduction and climate change. Not only did the Greens heckle in response to this assessment, but since then different observers have questioned the purity of Ms Merkel’s intentions.
NGOs ‘Brot für die Welt’ and EED accused her of ‘forgetting about’ the EU action on Climate Change she had herself initiated. In a joint letter, Christian leaders from the UK, Germany and Sweden warned of neglecting action on Climate Change because of the financial crisis. And Klaus Töpfer, a prominent former environment minister and head of UNEP, warned that commitments to tackle Climate Change should be questioned by no-one, least of all Ms Merkel.
For the moment it seems that, barring a political miracle, the results of the EU Council meeting and Poznan will not meet the expectations of better times. Germany is likely to push for further exceptions to the auctioning of CO² permits for energy intensive industries, such as steelmaking, cement, and aluminium, leading to the Spiegel’s mourning Angela Merkel’s transformation from ‘Miss World’ to ‘Madame No’.
Not much space seems left for the argument Obama and an earlier Merkel have made, namely that action on Climate Change will create, rather than destroy jobs. Bärbel Höhn, the Greens’ environmental spokesperson does, saying that ‘Merkel makes a serious mistake in not seeing the economic potential of Climate Change, and endangers jobs and industries by serving short-term lobby interests.’ The recent German ‘transformation’ does not bode well for action on Climate Change, and that might turn out to be an economic, as well as an environmental, policy error.