Damage is not irreparable, but needs blood, sweat and tears

Does the EU intend to continue with the efforts begun in Johannesburg? Of course. We have to remain faithful to the goals of viable development. Our priority is developing renewable sources of energy and we are furthering the alliance of the «willing» ones, as we call them. We view the Johannesburg decisions more as the floor than as the ceiling. It is our starting point. We can do more. As for the EU, where can we find allies in this endeavor? Are Russia and China among them? I am to visit China this year for this very purpose. I hope they will ally themselves with us. It is very important for them to get it right from the beginning, as their explosion of development begins. There is some sensitivity, particularly regarding climatic change, and I think we can have a constructive dialogue. Our priority is to have a partnership with them. If they take the wrong road, they will pollute as badly as the US. What went wrong for the EU in Johannesburg? I don’t know if I agree that something went wrong. The political challenge was a huge one. We had an international agreement there and that is very important even if it was not as ambitious as we would have liked. It is not black and white. We shouldn’t automatically characterize it as either a success or a failure. It is very important that certain goals were set, such as a 2015 deadline to reduce the number of people who do not have access to a sewerage network by half. The question now is to put into practice everything that we debated in Rio, and if local cooperation can bring about results, then it is worth the effort. Is the Kyoto Protocol close to international ratification and implementation? We also need Russia to be able to ratify it, so we are working with them. Is is possible to reverse the damage to the climate without the cooperation of the US? The only way to force the US to cooperate is to go ahead with them and to make the Protocol international law. We have also implemented a flexible mechanism of buying and selling pollution credits, an idea provided by George Bush Senior, and American companies have shown an interest. In other words, you are optimistic about the Kyoto Protocol? It won’t happen without blood, sweat and tears, but it will happen. How easy is it to defend the environment on a Commission where there is pressure from other sectors, and at the same time to be voted Commissioner of the Year and be so popular? When you are a politician, the moments of glory are very few. I compare it to being in an elevator between heaven and hell. On the one hand there are so many positive developments, we are really changing the world. On the other there is the shortage of water and natural resources, the climatic changes that are already happening and I know that whatever we do now will have repercussions on the generations that come after us. It is difficult to mobilize politicians when you are talking about 100 years off; it is not a popular message. Some claim that the damage to the environment is irreparable, that there is nothing to be done. Do you believe that? Not at all. Views like this are used as an excuse not to make the effort. We have to be more careful, and not shout «wolf» when there is none in sight.

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