European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, who is running for a second term at the EU executive's helm, likened EU policies to address climate change and improve energy security to the coal and steel community, which paved the way for European reconciliation after the Second World War.
Speaking to a small group of journalists in Brussels on Friday (4 September), Barroso commented at length his "political guidelines" for the next five years which are intended to win him the European Parliament's support in a vote expected later this month.
'By far the greatest success was climate change'
"But if you ask me about the legacy of this Commission - the first commission of a reunified Europe - in terms of policies, by far the greatest success was climate change."
"Now we are leading the world in setting the standards for fighting climate change. It was a proposal of my commission, and it was, by the way, not easy to convince some member states, but we've got it," Barroso said.
You may have a vision, but must try to reach it in pragmatic ways, Barroso explained, reminding that Jean Monnet did not say "let's create the United States of Europe" but instead created solidarity in the strategic coal and steel industries. With climate change and energy security, he said the present Commission was doing something similar at the outset of the 21st century.
"Coal and steel was to reconcile the former enemies, Germany and France […] Honestly, some countries in Europe were not so enthusiastic in the agenda about climate change, but they were concerned about energy security. So we linked both," Barroso said, adding that in Europe it was often possible to have larger ambitions than smaller ambitions.
"If the Commission had just proposed a climate change agenda, it would be very difficult to have consensus," he pointed out.
José Manuel Barroso is right to be proud with achievements of his first presidency term in relation to climate policy – success of carbon market is one of the brightest examples:
According to Climate Progress, the report, Climate Policy and Industrial Competitiveness (pdf), completed by the economists, climate scientists, and academics of the German Marshall Fund, reveals that Europe's cap and trade has lead many countries in the EU to meet their carbon targets as agreed to in the Kyoto Protocol.
The trading system has created a healthy carbon market now worth 56 billion US dollars, and has reduced Europe's emissions by 50-100 million metric tons a year since 2005. In other words, the cap and trade has been responsible for Europe reducing its carbon emissions by 2.5-5% annually. Which is indeed a pretty impressive achievement. And the success has been largely due to the fact that the system's design separated its implementation process into 3 phases, so there would be pause for analysis and adjustment. This allowed policymakers to consistently reevaluate the system, and they were able to stop, like the aforementioned practice of sticking consumers with the cost of carbon.
Sources: euractiv.com and treehugger.com