An Agency for change?(The Parliament Magazine)


Global warming is a cold fact that cannot be ignored. The man made climate change will bring about enormous societal, political and economic consequences. A change in the nature can be rapid as the slow changes accumulate and combined pass a threshold.

Now, politician's social context includes the basic approach of being able to negotiate on everything. This time we have to face the nature as our counterpart and it will not negotiate nor agree on compromises; the nature just is. It is our task to adapt to facts. Although there are many new and inspiring initiatives, the negotiating approach is still evident – even in the environmental policies.

Finally, when we decide to do something, we are eager to solve a problem without seeing how this creates a dozen of new ones. The history is full of examples on solutions that have no doubt answered one question but also created a bunch of new. The reason for this is in the human nature; Homo Sapiens is also Homo Trepidans, a fusspot.

Only this time we cannot afford failing. Obviously, active measures have to be taken in order to gain additional scientific knowledge on climate change, assess its socio-economical and environmental impacts and to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. What are then our resources to find sound answers?

The resources under the European Commission are very limited as compared to the challenges of climate change. This is especially the case with regard to the European Environment Agency, where only a few man-years are allocated to climate related issues. Also the Commission level manpower investments are very limited. Additional Commission level resources are clearly needed to strengthen the European role internationally. My initiative, briefly discussed in the Environmental Committee on October 8, to set up a dedicated European climate change agency should not be seen as an effort competing with the existing resources, but rather as a complementary one.

Europe has become a central player in the climate change related issues, especially with regard to the Kyoto protocol. Establishment of a European climate change agency would strengthen the European role internationally. It should not only serve the greenhouse gas emission related actions, but also serve as a scientific organisation producing and assessing high-level scientific information on climate change, its impacts and mitigation strategies.

I believe this becomes more necessary for EU even in the International panel on climate change, IPCC. It may have been rather easy to reach – with all the scientific evidence available – a consensus on the fact that climate is changing. Now that we should start making decisions on how to combat the climate change and which tools to use, the differences and disagreements within the IPCC are more likely to occur. Therefore, it would not be sufficient to assume that the IPCC would serve as a central resource to EU but rather the opposite; the input of EU is needed for the IPCC and that input can only convince if it is based on sound knowledge.

It should also be emphasised that the initiative is not only related to DG on environment, but as well to other DGs, such as DG science and enterprise. I assume, the eventual success of the European climate policy will be based on multi-disciplinary science and cross-political approach and, once more, a dedicated agency would be best actor to co-ordinate this.

It is also expected that establishment of a European climate change agency would be favoured by the European citizens. Climate change is of great concern among the European citizens. Clear actions from EU, like a decision to establish such an agency would also help in improving the image on the European institutions among the ordinary people. It is rather amazing that among the 13 present EU agencies, there is no agency for the most difficult challenge EU will be facing.

If the political will exists, there are relevant scientists in EU who could readily produce a preliminary planning document for such an initiative.

The Parliament Magazine, Marraskuu 2002

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