Brussels roundtable hailed as a success

March 21, 2009

On June 29, 2007 the European Commission adopted its first policy document, a green paper on adapting to the impacts of climate change. 'Adaptation to Climate Change in Europe: Options for EU Action' describes avenues for action at the EU level, and its main objective is to kick-start a Europe-wide public debate and consultation on the double challenge of making deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change conditions.

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Knights of the roundtable. Photo: Zsolt Bauer
The REC partnered with the European Economic and Social Committee in promoting a roundtable to facilitate this debate, which took place in Brussels on February 27. The roundtable was open to all actors: individual citizens, public authorities, the private sector, businesses, towns and cities, academics, networks, policymakers, associations and NGOs.

According to Zsuzsa Ivanyi, head of the REC's Climate Change Programme, the event was important and successful in that it marked one of the first occasions that EU policymakers stepped up voluntarily to participate in a discussion about climate change — signalling that the issue is finally being taken seriously by top EU brass. Guido Sacconi, president of the European Parliament Temporary Committee on Climate Change, opened the one-day event, and was followed with introductory remarks from Corrado Clini, chairman of the REC board of directors and director general of the Department for Environmental Research and Development of Italy's Ministry for Environment Land and Sea.

Also giving a presentation was REC climate change expert Yunus Arikan, while REC Executive Director Marta Szigeti Bonifert closed the roundtable with some concluding comments. The session's first keynote speaker was Nicholas Hanley from DG Environment, European Commission, who said that it is only in the last couple of years that the European community and Commission has begun to be "somewhat seriously more coherent" in its approach to climate change.

"The European Council in March last year gave the commission a clear mandate to come up with a package of proposals with the targets we put on the table on the 23rd of June [2007]," said Hanley. "We in the commission are very keen to see that package go through in order that the community can next year in Copenhagen actually take a strong line in international debate backed up by a substantive engagement with policies of our own."

Hanley added that climate change adaptation "will upset some aspirations, expectations, agricultural policies and patents," but that we need the "courage to provoke discussion." Vladimir Spidla, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, also touched on a similar theme in making his final remarks at the roundtable: "The European Union has the means to turn climate change into a technological and social progress factor. I am convinced it will have the will and courage, and will seize the opportunity offered to position itself as a leader on the international field in that domain."