Interview with German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen 'China Doesn't Want to Lead, and the US Cannot'

German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen talks to SPIEGEL about the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit, why neither China nor the US can take the lead in the fight against global warming and Germany's role in the new world order.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Röttgen, Chancellor Angela Merkel says we shouldn't bad mouth the outcome of the world climate summit in Copenhagen. Please tell us, as a minister who is loyal to the chancellor, exactly what good came out of it.

Norbert Röttgen: First and foremost, the result is a great disappointment. But one should not overlook the fact that one thing has been achieved and secured: The goal of keeping global warming from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius is included in the closing document and there is a stated desire to provide aid worth billions for sustainable development in developing nations. China has also agreed for the first time to allow its emissions cuts to be tracked. We agreed to this because it is better than doing nothing. We will now continue on this basis. The alternative would have been a total collapse of the climate protection process.

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Photo Gallery: The Copenhagen Debacle

SPIEGEL: Before going to Copenhagen, you formulated clear criteria for success at the summit. You wanted to see concrete reduction targets being established for both 2020 and 2050, which would lead to a global climate treaty within six months. Neither of those things has been achieved. Why don't you be honest and talk about a complete failure?

Röttgen: There is no disguising the fact that the outcome does not meet our criteria for success, and it is miles away from what we consider to be urgently necessary. If you want to call that failure, then I can understand that -- even if I do not entirely share that view.

SPIEGEL: Why, then, is the chancellor accusing critics of the summit, of all people, of damaging climate protection efforts?

Röttgen: The chancellor and I have seen up close that in some quarters there is great interest in seeing the UN's climate protection process fail completely. Therefore, it can be dangerous to talk everything down. Those who always talk about the conference using only the vocabulary of failure must be careful not to herald the end of international climate protection efforts. The brutal disappointment, which I also feel myself, should not cause us to become resigned. On the contrary, it has now become more urgent than ever that we find solutions.

SPIEGEL: What caused the conference to collapse?

Röttgen: Emerging economies, led by China, were not willing to commit themselves to CO2 reduction targets as a part of their foreign policy or to join the common political will. With the United States, the problems were domestic in nature. The political conditions are lacking there for the country to be part of a global framework. Both countries are not prepared, for different reasons, to solve the problem on the basis of reciprocal obligations. Both seem to consider national politics to be more important.

SPIEGEL: Was the goal not simply too ambitious from the outset?

Röttgen: No, and we will not give it up, either. It is ambitious, but there is no alternative. That's why we now need to analyze exactly why it hasn't worked yet.

SPIEGEL: At what point in Copenhagen did you realize that things were turning for the worst?

Röttgen: When it became clear that China was not even willing to accept unilateral pledges on the part of the industrialized nations to reduce emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050. That was the absolute low point. The Chinese said that was too little for them. We replied that we industrialized countries could perhaps offer 100 percent, but that would have to be the end -- for mathematical reasons apart from anything else. At that point, it became clear that the Chinese were not concerned with agreeing on CO2 reductions, but rather with preventing them. When US President Barack Obama retreated for a face-to-face meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, it suddenly became clear to me: We can forget about our main targets.

SPIEGEL: Angela Merkel is talking about a new world climate order. What would that look like?

Röttgen: The conference has made it clear that we do not have a global climate policy and that the will to create one is lacking. The CO2 issue is fundamental, it cuts deep into every economic process. It will lead to new power battles and to a new division of power.


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contrarian 01/02/2010
1. Stopping the Titanic versus the Flat Earthers
Zitat von sysopGerman Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen talks to SPIEGEL about the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit, why neither China nor the US can take the lead in the fight against global warming and Germany's role in the new world order.,1518,669208,00.html
In environmental terms the first decade of the 21. century have been lost and in many ways the direction has been regressive. USA The USA used to be an environmental leader in the 1970's but it become all too hard. Amongst the over 50's the idea of climate change through CO2 emissions is largely not accepted and in most polite company e.g. at the local Country Club or at a Rotary meeting any discussion is immediately killed off by derision and frequently by reference to the dreaded Y2K fizzer. The mindset of Mr and Mrs America is firm and simple: The earth is flat and anything else is not in our interest. Until a new generation of community elders emerges or some cataclysmic event occurs, change will only be in pockets and with little impulse. China The greater number of Chinese leader are trained engineers. They are aware of the iceberg ahead, but they are on the bridge of the biggest ship on the ocean. Their problem is: how do we change course and avoid a collision and not lose momentum. Plus, China did not expect to encounter a minor iceberg in the form of a GFC, which initially put a large number of its citizens on the unemployment line. Listening to lower level forums and debates, it is clear the China is moving with strong acceleration and firm direction toward a reduced CO2 economy. Examples are: - an upgraded high speed train system - heading towards global leadership in windfarms an solar energy - planning 385 new nuclear power stations and investing in new and safer nuclear technology - jumping the combustion engine technology in cars - straight to electric. - utilising industrial waste heat by fitting Kalina cycle turbines etc To restart the Copenhagen discussion there needs to be a basis of fairness which can be stated in a single principle: 'Every person on earth has an equal right to CO2 emissions, notwithstanding his or her place of residence'. Conversely: 'Those causing emissions above the global average are under the greatest obligation to revert to the global average'. Whatever China or the US do, should not stop any other country from acting now. Tomorrow might be too late.
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