Latvia supports the fight against climate change

Latvian Institute of International Affairs

Dzintra Bungs

As in many parts of the world, the prevailing view in Latvia has been that the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly known as the Copenhagen summit or the Copenhagen climate conference, was by and large a failure. Latvia had wholeheartedly supported the proposals of the EU that had been approved at the Council of the European Union on 29-30 October 2009 in Brussels. The only caveat of the Latvians was that the plans adopted in Copenhagen on 7-18 December 2009 should take into consideration the economic and financial situation of each country committing itself to the common goals.[1]
 
Already before the conclusion of the UN climate conference, Latvia’s Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, who attended the international gathering in the Danish capital, predicted that the conference would end without an agreement on any of its ambitious goals. He told the Latvian TV journalists that, in all likelihood, the questions discussed at the conference would serve as a basis for hammering out, at a later time, an accord to limit climate change.[2] These views were shared by the Environment Minister, Raimonds Vējonis, who said after the conference that all the proposals leading to substantive action fell through and that everything would have to start again from the beginning, because the accord that was finally agreed upon is so weak. He added that ”regardless of the results of the Copenhagen summit, which, barring a few exceptions, disheartened the whole world, Latvia must continue to do what it has started to do: insulate dwellings so as to reduce energy consumption, switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and improve technologies so as to diminish air pollution.”[3] Stressing that Latvia shares the EU view that mankind is to blame for the climate changes, Vējonis observed that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by all countries.
 
Equally critical of the outcome of the conference was the Latvian researcher, Reinis Āboltiņš, who specialises in issues related to energy policy at the Centre for Public Policy Providus in Riga. In a post-conference assessment, Āboltiņš noted the meagre results and commented: “the Copenhagen climate conference has shot itself in the foot” in that the only ones satisfied with the outcome of the conference, it seems, are those whose welfare depends on manufacturing or other activities which have a clearly negative effect on the environment.[4]
 
The question of changing the European Union’s own energy and climate policy in order to provide a new impetus to the international negotiations is not a topic of current discussion in Latvia. The Latvian experts and the media appear to share the opinion that the poor results of the Copenhagen climate conference are primarily the consequence of great power interests, rather than any specific shortcomings in the EU energy and climate policy.
 
Latvia supports the Union’s energy and climate policy in general, despite the fact that there are reservations regarding some EU positions and procedures. This is also true regarding the Union’s position at the Copenhagen climate conference in December 2010, because there are no major differences between the Union’s position and Latvia’s on the issues that were discussed. The Latvian government approved its position paper already on 22 September 2009.”[5] In a nutshell, Latvia believes that global commitment is essential if a dent is to be made in stopping climate change.
 
In anticipation of the EU environment ministers meeting on 15 March 2010, the Latvian government issued another policy paper. According to that document, Latvia agrees in general with the Council’s conclusions regarding the Copenhagen conference and regarding what should be done before the follow-up conference in Cancun, Mexico in late 2010. In the policy paper, the Latvian government reiterates the importance of agreeing upon a global framework regime for reducing climate change after 2012. To achieve this, the EU should develop a strong strategy and assess the potential effect of future policies on EU member states, as well as continue active cooperation with other countries to explain the ideas and goals of climate policy and win their support. For Latvia, it is essential that the EU’s transition to reducing its emissions occurs on the condition that other developed and developing countries also assume equitable commitments for reductions or adequate investments. To ensure this, the Commission must assess the goals of other countries and use them as a basis to decide whether the EU should set stricter emission goals. At the same time, the Commission should analyse the potential socio-economic effects of adaptation to the goals of reducing emissions by 30 percent and show the effects on the EU as a whole and on each of the member states.[6]
 
Given the preceding clarifications of Latvia’s position and its emphasis on the necessity to make reducing climate change a global commitment, it follows that the Latvian government is not contemplating alternatives to the strategy that the European Union is following or the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Furthermore, it is felt that despite its imperfections, the UNFCCC functions and that all of the possibilities and options it offers have not been exhausted.
 
Concerning the financing of mitigation and adaptation efforts to the various undertakings designed to reduce climate change, in its position paper of 22 September 2009, the Latvian government stated that all this must be a part of a global framework accord, because achieving coordinated action to reduce climate change is in the Union’s and Latvia’s best interest. Such a framework accord must also recognise that the Union assumes an equitable share of the total financial burden. “Latvia believes that all countries, except the least developed, must accept financial responsibility to reduce emissions and to implement adaptive projects. Consequently, Latvia cannot accept the notion that rich developing countries become recipients of financial assistance, while the poor countries or the developed countries with low emissions serve as their donors.”[7] Therefore, the Union should not assume unilaterally ambitious commitments when there is not an adequate or commensurate commitment from other developed or developing countries.



[1] Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Press Release, 30 October 2009, available at: http://www.mfa.gov.lv/lv/Jaunumi/PazinojumiPresei/2009/oktobris/30-01/ (last access: 14 July 2010).

[2] LETA, 18 December 2009, available at: http://www.delfi.lv/archive/print.php?id=28797277 (last access: 14 July 2010).

[3] LETA, 19 December 2009, available at: http://www.delfi.lv/archive/print.php?id=28806589 (last access: 14 July 2010).

[4] Reinis Āboltiņš: Nominatīvs — Kas? — nenoteiktība Lokatīvs — Kur? — Kopenhāgenā (in English “Nominative – What? – Ambiguity. Locative – Where? – Copenhagen”), available at: http://www.politika.lv/temas/vide_un_ilgtspeja/17909/ (last access: 14 July 2010).

[5] Informatīvais ziņojums par nacionālo pozīciju “Par ES nostāju starptautiskajās sarunās par klimata politiku pēc 2012.gada (gatavošanās ANO Klimata pārmaiņu konferencei 2009.gada 7.-18.decembrī)”, available at: http://www.mk.gov.lv/lv/mk/tap/?pid=40145038 (last access: 14 July 2010).

[6] Par Latvijas nacionālajām pozīcijām Eiropas Savienības Vides ministru padomes 2010. gada 15.marta sanāksmē izskatāmajos jautājumos, available at: http://www.mk.gov.lv/doc/2005/VIDMZino_080310.632.doc (last access: 14 July 2010).

[7] Informatīvais ziņojums par nacionālo pozīciju “Par ES nostāju starptautiskajās sarunās par klimata politiku pēc 2012.gada (gatavošanās ANO Klimata pārmaiņu konferencei 2009.gada 7.-18.decembrī)”, available at: http://www.mk.gov.lv/lv/mk/tap/?pid=40145038 (last access: 14 July 2010).

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