EPP is not for watermelon policyEPP buro meeting in Slovenia

Dear Hosts, Colleagues – Friends

I find this moment very interesting, especially as a politician who, for many years, has been wrestling with energy, climate and environment policy whilst keeping an eye on the EU’s competitiveness in global markets. During these many years, this portfolio appeared to be, at least for most of my colleagues, something rather unfashionable.

Why was it considered even less interesting than the Constitution? Because it was so hopelessly simple. – NGO´s just told the people how the things are and politicians just implement their advice. Therefore, environmental politics was, for many years, considered something quite easy, even light, almost "flat". In the governments this portfolio was considered alongside culture or gender related issues – to put it frankly, soft issues. In my country environmental issues were always externalised for the greens – big parties thought that this is their case anyway, let them handle it, it is a harmless deal when those, many of them former communists, who had lost their kingdom after the collapse of Soviet Union, concentrate on this rather minor nitpicking.

Therefore, climate and environmental policy has until recently, been dominated by the political approach and the political emphasis of the green movement. And we are to blame ourselves for that. We did not see the political aspect in that.

But now, when this area is getting political, we begin to see that perhaps the green approach is not the only possibility. Maybe the earth is beginning to choose its own friends. The European Peoples Party recently adopted in its bureau meeting in Madrid our first comprehensive climate report, for which I was responsible, and the result was encouraging. Now we start seeing that swallowing the green agenda is not enough – it is sometimes even dangerous, because it is a top-down approach, it is bureaucratic, it is stiff, and it is based on scarcity and limitation. The time has come to shake the paradigms of environmental politics and climate politics especially: from the politics of limitation to the politics of possibilities. From dogma to do more! My glass is not half empty – it is half full!

The problem is that the climate change debate is still in child's shoes. In fact, we have only two categories: climate sceptics, who do not believe in the human influence on climate change, and then those, who believe/recognise that there is a problem, and see Kyoto as the only solution to that – so called climate orthodox or climate puritan. We would also need a third category.

The category, which I am calling for is taking the threat of climate change seriously, but being sceptical towards the chosen means to tackle the issue. The traditional means, chosen originally by the greens, are bureaucratic, they reward the polluters and, surprisingly perhaps, repeatedly penalise the developing countries.

This is a paradox indeed: they perhaps tried to punish the western society by not making the climate measures too easy but this strategy hits hardest the poorest of the poor. Let me give some examples that illustrate how fatal the green approach has been for the environment. I dare to maintain that their policy has even accelerated the global warming.

* First, adaptation, as Ms Jordan Cizelj mentioned: it was a forbidden word for too long. Instead of adaptation, we were told to speak about mitigation only. It was said that adaptation is giving up with global warming. Now, however, the major accidents that are related to global warming are all examples of unnecessary losses; they all could have been prevented by better, storm proof building and regional community planning. Now we finally understand that both mitigation and adaptation are needed: mitigation is for the coming generations, adaptation is for the current ones, especially in the poor and vulnerable countries. This attitude to ban adaptation for too long has hit worst the poor in the developing world, when preparing for accidents was considered as giving in to the situation. It happened only in 2006 in the Nairobi COP-meeting, when adaptation, as a result of the pressure of developing countries, was finally liberated from being a politically incorrect concept.

* reforestation, as one of the means, was according to environmental NGOs too easy a tool to control the emissions, and was therefore not taken into account in Kyoto mechanisms – this speeded up the destruction of rain forests and exploited the poor in the developing countries by taking away their chance to benefit from Kyoto. At the same time, climate change was speeded up. The change in our policy took place only in Bali last year, after the pressure of developing countries. I really do hope that we will be able to correct this mistake and integrate reforestation in the ETS CER credits.

* the biofuel boom that NGOs have now woken up to oppose, after originally launching it, is literally taking the bread from the poor, by raising the price of food oil as Mrs Lulling rightly stated. The energy used in generating biofuel is often far higher than that gained – and the loss of rainforest is permanent.

* the uncritical religious attitude to the renewables, as Mr Chichester rightly stated, may create a real threat for sustainable development. I am afraid that this 20-20 decision to reach this binding target within such a short time frame will disturb our final goal to reduce the greenhouse gases. Why? We don’t have the necessary technological alternatives available yet. There is a risk that it will lead either to unsustainable forestry when the binding target will be reached by over-logging or then we just kill the possibilities of pulp and paper industry in Europe because of the lacking raw material. We should not let that happen.

On climate issues, we are not the Group of watermelon policies – Green on the outside but with a red heart. We are the Group that strives to balance the climate agenda with business, promotes market mechanisms with an eye on employment and recognises the threat of energy dependency.

But do the electorate know that? Especially next year's electorate! It's time we give a clear message about our responsible and sustainable climate policy.

You cannot respect the planet unless you first respect the science. Only by looking at the science can we be sure – and only if we are sure can we play our role as Effective and Pragmatic Politicians – I think that’s EPP again.

Environment, Professionalism and Pragmatism. Isn’t that what EPP really stands for?

Thank you for listening.

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17.huhtikuu 2008


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