Building Trans-Atlantic Consensus: The U.S.-EU Climate Policy Dialogue

Apr 29, 2009 | RFF Staff
Panel Participants (left to right) Jonathan Pershing, Bo Kjellén, Lars-Erik Liljelund, Artur Runge-Metzger gathered at the House of Sweden
Courtesy: Viktoria Asp, Embassy of Sweden
  Poised to assume presidency of the European Union in July, Sweden will lead European nations into the next international conference on climate change this December in Copenhagen. Looking toward that new role and leadership in crafting a new global climate change mitigation treaty, the Swedish Embassy, with CLIPORE and Resources for the Future, hosted an Earth Day panel discussion in Washington April 22 featuring EU and U.S. climate officials who outlined challenges the two major industrialized blocs face heading toward Copenhagen.   

Negotiators from both sides of the Atlantic agree the Obama administration’s emphasis on creating a domestic greenhouse gas regulatory regime will go a long way toward solidifying commitments in an international agreement.

Still, U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing acknowledged the U.S. has a lot of ground to regain on the issue of climate change internationally, in part because the U.S. never ratified the Kyoto Protocol and has largely remained inactive throughout the past decade.

”For the first time in a long time we have an administration that believes in the science,” Pershing said.

But he cautioned that the U.S. cannot step forward alone and that high-emitting developing nations like China and India must join agreements to regulate their emissions. Negotiations with developing nations can sometimes be hindered by a fixation on numbers, in the form of emissions reductions and/or financial commitments, according to Pershing and top European Commission climate change negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger. Signaling some potential flexibility in moving forward, Runge-Metzger said, ”many roads lead to Rome,” implying there are a variety of types of commitments the U.S. could make that would advance the international agenda.

The question of when emissions reductions targets should enter into the negotiation process also was a focus of the panel. Joseph Aldy, a White House advisor on energy and climate, said establishing a policy architecture should be a top priority, and the specifics of reductions targets should follow.

As one of the top emitters of greenhouse gases in the world, the U.S. is under pressure to outline its goals soon. Many developing nations feel a climate agreement may stunt the growth of their economies and look to the U.S. to take an early initiative. While there is still debate about structure, Runge-Metzger  underscored the salient message of the panel, saying nations on both sides of the Atlantic want, and need, to lead the way on climate change by example.



Event panelists included:

Lars-Erik Liljelund, Special Advisor on Climate Change to Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt

Jonathan Pershing, Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change, U.S. Department of State

Artur Runge-Metzger, Head of International Climate Change Negotiations Unit, European Commission

Joseph Aldy, Special Assistant to President Obama for Energy and Environment

Ola Alterå, State Secretary, Sweden’s Ministry of Enterprise and Energy


Frank Loy, Former Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs

Bo Kjellén, Former Cheif Negotiator for Sweden on International Climate Issues

Download the Event Agenda Here