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Co-operation on regional and global issues

38 - Relations with the US on climate change

Grade: B+
Unity 4/5
Resources 4/5
Outcome 7/10
Total 15/20
Scorecard 2010/11: B- (11/20)

While the mood in Washington is increasingly hostile to climate change policies, Europeans held their own on aviation emissions and helped deliver US participation at the Durban summit.

2010 was the year in which European hopes for climate legislation in the US were dashed – the culmination of a decade of growing disengagement and scepticism on climate change save for the hopes raised by the election of Barack Obama in 2008. In spite of continuing outreach efforts by the EU and individual member states such as Germany and France, especially at the state and local levels, the transatlantic gap on the issue did not narrow during 2011. However, Europeans continued their uphill battle and scored two victories.

First, they remained firm on including airlines flying to Europe from all regions of the world in their Emission Trading Scheme (ETS), against intense lobbying by American companies (as well as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) and their counterparts from Brazil, China, India, Russia and other countries. The EU had previously sought in vain a multilateral agreement, and is ready to waive the requirement for one leg of the flight for countries where “equivalent measures” are taken, so accusations of unilateralism made by members of Congress ring hollow. They nonetheless introduced a bill to forbid American companies to comply with the plan when it enters into force in 2012. In spite of overwhelming opposition and pressure at the International Civil Aviation Organization, EU member states remained united and in December the European Court of Justice confirmed that EU plans complied with international law.

Second, in spite of the economic crisis, Europeans were instrumental in getting the US to agree to the “Durban roadmap” at the UN summit on climate change in December. The text, which commits all countries to negotiate a new carbon emissions mitigation regime by 2015 (to enter into force in 2020), abolishes the distinction between developed and developing countries (especially China). This innovation over the Kyoto Protocol was a key condition for Washington and helped Americans agree to an important concession – that the future pact should have legal force (even though no penalties are envisaged yet).

Member States
Leaders:  Denmark - Finland - France - Germany - Netherlands - Portugal - United Kingdom