Country of Residence: Belgium / Denmark
Current Position: European Commissioner for Climate Action
How did you get to the role you are in today and what advice would you give aspiring climate champions?
I actually studied literature and history. And in between I have been a journalist, TV host, minister and political spokeswoman for the Conservative Party in Denmark. I have always strived to work on something I liked to do and which made sense to me. For me this is the only way that I can commit myself 100%.
I would tell aspiring climate champions to stay true to themselves and their ideals. A good career is not always about up, up, up. It is about doing something meaningful and applying your talents in a way that helps bring about the necessary societal change.
What do you believe can be achieved at COP18?
Doha must build on the breakthrough we achieved in Durban last year, and make progress in preparation of the 2015 legally binding global climate agreement. Equally important will be agreeing on further measures to reduce emissions so we can stay below a 2°C increase.
The EU have long been advocates for a global legal framework applicable to all countries; a demand that finally won approval in Durban last year. How has the dynamic between developed and developing countries changed since 1997?
As you know, at present only some developed countries have the legal obligation to reduce emissions under the Kyoto Protocol – and I have always said that this was not sustainable. With the new legal framework Durban has agreed to build, all countries, developed and developing, will for the first time be equally bound. This may mean breaking with the past, but this new system really reflects the reality of today’s mutually interdependent world. All countries need to take on commitments that have equal legal weight. Developing countries, led by China, already emit more greenhouse gas than the developed world and by 2020 it is estimated they will be responsible for around two-thirds of global emissions.
I would certainly have liked to see the new system in place very much earlier, but many of the big emitters were not ready for that yet. In accepting the Durban outcome they have agreed to be ready by 2020 at the latest, and that's what we are working on now.
What steps is DG Clima taking to engender more climate conscious policies and behaviour within Europe?
We are of course leading by example with ambitious legislative proposals – this year alone I presented amongst others new legislation to reduce the CO2 emissions of new cars, we are working on fuel efficiency, on the sustainability of biofuels and we continue to enlarge and improve the EU Emissions Trading System.
At the same time, it is very important to me to reach out to the citizens of Europe. I have just launched a big campaign which will highlight the best projects in EU Member States – so far, and just to highlight a few, we have a sustainable fire station in Dublin, an elevator in Greece powered by solar energy, and the Stockholm train station where the body heat of waiting commuters is collected and used to heat an office building nearby. This is all inspiring best practice which Europeans must hear about, that touches on their everyday lives and demonstrates how they can be improved in a low-carbon way.
What are your aims within your role for 2013 and beyond?
It is really important that we get progress on an overall framework for European climate and energy policy for 2030 – so that businesses get a clear signal for their investments. And we of course also need to pave the way for an ambitious global climate agreement in 2015.
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”