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Slovakia backs climate proposal

MOST news in the past several months about Slovakia’s Ministry of the Environment has revolved around disputes over last-year’s low-priced sale of the country's excess CO2 emissions quotas to Interblue Group, a firm whose registered office was a lock-up garage in the United States, rather than the ministry’s preparations for one of the most anticipated international gatherings of the year to discuss the environment – the UN’s Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen.

MOST news in the past several months about Slovakia’s Ministry of the Environment has revolved around disputes over last-year’s low-priced sale of the country's excess CO2 emissions quotas to Interblue Group, a firm whose registered office was a lock-up garage in the United States, rather than the ministry’s preparations for one of the most anticipated international gatherings of the year to discuss the environment – the UN’s Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen.

Slovakia has been supporting the ambition of the European Union to achieve an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from their 1990 levels before 2030, according to Slovakia’s Foreign Ministry.

While environmental activists say that Slovakia follows the EU line on most points, observers suggest that there has not been sufficient discussion within the country about the most serious environmental issues, something which would require more involvement by both state and public institutions as well as the expert community. They say that non-governmental organisations are still generating most activities in this field.

As world leaders were heading to Copenhagen on December 18, perhaps to seal agreements that according to many will significantly impact the health of the planet, there was mounting scepticism about the actual effectiveness of the meeting's likely results as it neared its end.

Pavol Široký of the Slovak Climate Coalition said on December 16 that the negotiations that he had been following up to that point did not suggest that Copenhagen would be the success that many had hoped it would be.

The Slovak Climate Coalition, a project sponsored by the civil association For Mother Earth, would consider the conference to be a success if the final agreements include an obligation to reduce greenhouse emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 levels by 2020, and by 80 to 100 percent before 2050, Široký told The Slovak Spectator.

“Without passing effective legislation and a high quality international agreement it will not be possible to ensure that the global average temperature increase does not exceed 2 degrees Celsius from 1990 levels, a temperature to which the eco-systems of the earth and humans can adapt,” Široký said.

Keeping such a limited temperature change, according to scientific studies, requires reducing greenhouse emissions to a level of less than 350 parts per million (ppm) while currently those emissions stand at 385 ppm, Široký explained. The Slovak Climate Coalition is a project supported by the European Economic Area, the Norwegian financial mechanism and Slovakia’s state budget.

Široký suggests that final agreements from the Copenhagen summit should support renewable energy sources, energy-savings programmes, public transportation, ecological agriculture, low-emissions by industry, and limiting deforestation. He sees these as the main ways to reduce CO2 emissions.

Another required step, he said, is to support the poorest countries in their transition to low-carbon and energy-saving industries so that their living standards can improve without increasing emissions.

“We have to help poorer countries with the development of sustainable technologies, which would be based on renewable energy and adaptation to unavoidable changes in the climate,” he said.

A serious mechanism for financing the elimination or minimisation of climatic changes that will encompass those with historical responsibility for greenhouse gases, those who are the biggest current emitters, and financial options for particular countries is absolutely essential, Široký added.

Britain's prime minister, Gordon Brown, was pushing EU leaders to commit to cutting emissions by 30 percent by 2020, while admitting that there would still be huge obstacles to overcome.

“As Gordon Brown has said, we want to create a situation in which the European Union is persuaded to go to 30 percent – because the deal on the table is ambitious enough,” British Ambassador to Slovakia Michael Roberts told The Slovak Spectator on December 16.

According to Roberts, the EU reconfirmed its offer on December 11 to adopt a 30-percent reduction of emissions if other countries’ proposals are suitably ambitious.

The decision for the EU to adopt a 30 percent reduction by 2020 would push both developed and developing countries to the higher ends of their ambitions in Copenhagen, Roberts added.

Regarding more discussion about the seriousness of climatic changes, Roberts said that he
would like to see the issue be taken up more by the Slovak public.

“There’s still a sense that climate change isn’t something that affects Slovakia,” Roberts said. “In the UK, green issues were taken up by the public and then the politicians were forced on board too. I’d like to see the same thing happen in Slovakia. The consequences of these issues not being taken seriously here are potentially huge. Imagine the end of skiing in the High Tatras due to a warmer climate or the risk of dangerous floods.”

Slovakia is moving in line with EU plans in most areas although Široký said there is one area where the Slovak government prefers a different approach.

“It [the Slovak government] does not agree with the reopening of the issue of intellectual ownership [copyright] for new technologies, which might create a serious problem with transferring new technologies to developing countries,” Široký told The Slovak Spectator. “The government is also demanding the possibility of transferring unused AAU emissions to other periods after 2010. In fact, Slovakia wants to be able to sell the excess quotas that it is getting for free in the same way that it has done it before. Perhaps even to Interblue Group.”

The disadvantage of this approach, according to Široký, is that Slovakia will, in effect, not be forced to reduce CO2 emissions but will still be able to run its current polluting industries with what he called ‘hot air’ – fictitiously-saved emissions from the fall of communism.

“We think that revenues derived from auctions that polluters would pay would generate enough resources for needed climate measures,” he said. “At the same time there would be a more serious system of emissions trading.”

Široký agrees that Slovakia is lacking an adequate public discussion about the most serious environmental problems and that non-governmental organisations are generating the most activities in this field.

Ambassador Roberts has met Slovakia’s Environment Minister Jozef Medveď and informed him about the ambitious goals that the United Kingdom wants to achieve in Copenhagen.

“I was pleased that Mr. Medveď was fully supportive of the idea of the EU taking a lead in the negotiations,” said Roberts.

Roberts also introduced Medveď to four young Slovaks with a passion for confronting climate change, who are being sponsored by the British embassy and British Council on a visit to Copenhagen.

The four handed the minister a letter calling for Slovak government officials to take greater action on the issue of climate change.


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