Interview with UN Climate Expert Yvo de Boer: 'The Finance Crisis Will Affect Climate Policies'

In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, discusses how the current financial crisis will dampen national initiatives to curb greenhouse gas emissions and why he still has hopes Kyoto targets can be reached.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. de Boer, since 2000, the industrialized nations have continued to increase their greenhouse gas emissions. Has the world failed in moving to protect the climate?

de Boer: I don't think so. We have released data from 2006 -- in other words, just one year after the Kyoto Protocol went into effect. Emissions keep rising, but they will start going down. The countries that signed the Kyoto Protocol are still in a position to reach their goals.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But it still seems like many of these countries, such as Japan, aren't paying much attention to their climate-protection obligations.

A wind turbine in front of a coal-burning power facility in the eastern German state of Brandenburg.
DDP

A wind turbine in front of a coal-burning power facility in the eastern German state of Brandenburg.

de Boer: Japan certainly does have a long way to go before it reaches its goals. But the country is changing its policies, and it is also planning on purchasing international emissions rights. That's why I'm certain that Japan will reach its Kyoto goal.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: And how do things look with Canada?

de Boer: There's no denying that Canada has very significant problems. But, in this case, the situation is perhaps a bit strange. The country has said that it will not be able to reach its Kyoto goal, but it still says that it doesn't intend to abandon the treaty.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Critics have been saying that, given the current financial and economic crises, we cannot afford climate protection at this time because it would further weaken our industries.

de Boer: I'm quite sure that the financial crisis will have effects on our climate policies. We'll have less money to protect the environment because many countries have spent a lot of money rescuing their banks. At the same time, the price of oil has been going down, which is bad news when it comes to renewable energies and energy conservation. But, during last week's G-20 summit in Washington, the participating countries stated very clearly that they would not allow long-term problems like climate change to be forgotten.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: And how do you think that is really going to happen?

de Boer: At last year's climate summit in Bali, the countries pledged to initiate a process of negotiations that will come to an end next year. The warnings from scientists are taken very seriously. The states realize that we are making investment decisions now for the next 30 to 50 years. In this process, it would be unreasonable to not take climate change into account.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Apropos reasonableness, how do you integrate climate protection into your own daily life? Do you drive a company car with low CO2 emissions?

de Boer: I have a Toyota Prius, a hybrid car. I recommend it to others, too.

Interview conducted by Christoph Seidler

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