To an American “outsider” like me, a recent conference
in Berlin on integrating environment, development, and conflict prevention reflected the stark contrast between our policies and those of the EU. Though we are confronting similar situations – indeed, the same situation – we are dealing with them quite differently. In recent years, European policymakers have tried to balance environmental and energy concerns, working to decrease humans’ impact on climate and the environment and encourage environmental cooperation, while still generating enough energy for growth.
The tone of the conference was bleak, but the EU’s recent action on climate change is an encouraging sign of how governments can use scientific data to make difficult policy decisions. Only a month age, the EU agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2012.
Interestingly, the conference was situated at the center of German’s current political dominance, coming on the heels of the EUs 50th Anniversary celebration in Berlin and during the year of Germany’s joint Presidency of the EU and the G8. The conference’s timing also preceded the start of the UK’s Presidency of the United Nations Security Council. John Ashton, special representative on climate change at the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, announced that the UK will hold a “thematic debate” in the Security Council exploring the relationship among climate, energy, and security. The debate, the first of its kind at such a high level, will focus on the security implications of a changing climate, as well as other factors that contribute to conflict, like population growth, immigration, and access to food, water, and natural resources.