Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is both an honour and a privilege for me to join you today for the opening of the second celebration of "European Development Days". This year, we focus on two questions which are crucial for Europe and the rest of the world: climate change and sustainable development. We must also use this event to assess, critically, whether we are making the necessary progress towards the achievement of the Millenium Development Goals.
I would like to start by thanking the Portuguese Presidency for the strong support it has given to this initiative, and for its backing for European Union action in these areas, as reflected in the Prime Minister's speech a short while ago.
I am especially pleased at the presence of so many other significant figures from governments, as well as of course so many representatives from institutions and civil society from all around the world. Indeed, the attendance of so many decision-makers, professionals, specialists and other actors in the field of development makes the European Development Days a significant event in itself. Really, Lisbon this week is where Davos meets Porto Alegre.
This year's programme reflects in particular the importance of local actors - from local authorities to the private sector, NGOs, and charitable foundations - in both development cooperation generally and in the struggle against the effects of global warming.
I think we all know from our previous experience of development work that we have to pool all our efforts and resources. This is every bit as true for climate change. We have to work together to offer a comprehensive response to this global emergency - while there is still time.
For the writing is on the wall, and let’s be clear, this is a development problem. If we fail to restrict the growth of global warming now, the effects of climate change and the consequent natural disasters will be dramatic, putting at risk the very existence of some island countries and coastal regions, the survival of many peoples around the world, not to mention biodiversity. If we miss our target of cutting CO2 emissions by at least 50% from 1990 levels by 2050, the consequences of climate change in social, economic and environmental terms could be both irreversible and uncontrollable. To be more specific, it will directly hinder our efforts to reduce poverty and hunger in the world.
Climate change, in short, constitutes a threat to global security: let us just imagine, in the latter part of this century, the struggle we face over access to sources of energy and natural resources, the migratory pressures which could lead to conflicts.
But the world is now starting to react. 2007 has been a defining year in terms of international mobilisation and setting us on a path for more effective joint action. The recent initiatives by the European Union constitute the most ambitious strategy in the world for combating climate change. This strategy includes ambitious but credible mandatory targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making the transition to a low-carbon-intensity economy. It puts Europe in the position to take a strong lead in the negotiations for an international agreement on climate change for the post-2012 period.
It was especially gratifying last month at the meeting of the UN General Assembly on climate change to see that there is growing support for launching these negotiations at the UN conference on climate change in Bali at the end of the year.
Political leaders worldwide are collectively beginning to recognise the urgency of joint action to meet the challenges posed by climate change, not least as a result of the strong mobilisation of public opinion and citizens from around the world. Ordinary citizens have indeed played a pivotal role in pushing the climate change agenda.
This unprecedented mobilisation culminated last month in the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to ex-US Vice-President Al Gore and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This award reinforces the growing awareness in the world that environmental and climate issues will be important factors for peace in the 21st century.
But sometimes we focus on the negative aspects too much. It is an enormous challenge, but we should look to accentuate the positive. In my view, we are on the threshold of a new era, a transformation from a high carbon present to a low or zero carbon future.
So yes, we recognise that climate change means recognising a duty of solidarity towards developing countries, which are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. For this reason, the European Commission is proposing a new alliance between the EU and the developing countries most affected by climate change and with the fewest resources to cope with its effects. Our proposal for a Global Climate Change Alliance, which will be debated this week during the European Development Days event, proposes greater cooperation between the European Union and these countries, with a view to integrating the struggle against climate change into development and poverty-reduction strategies. We will play our part in that, in offering increased financial support for measures to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change and for the technology transfer needed by the most vulnerable countries.
At the same time we also have to remember that climate change represents a great technological opportunity for developing countries to leapfrog the high carbon phase of development.
We know that most of the countries that are least developed and most vulnerable to climate change are in Africa. Therefore, within the framework of the new EU-Africa Strategic Partnership, the European Union intends to launch an EU-Africa Strategic Partnership in the energy sector at the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon next December. One of the objectives of this partnership will be to develop the financial and human resources needed to establish a sustainable energy policy in Africa. The purpose of this is to provide favourable conditions for investment in infrastructure in the field of energy, including renewable energy, as well as transparency and market stability.
Our underlying view is that development is not just about numbers, but also about values. Solidarity is part of the European vision of development, as is respect for human rights and good governance, democracy and the rule of law. These different dimensions should also be part of the vision of development held by Europe's partners. For Europe, these questions are inextricably linked.
Europe's experience in cross-border cooperation also makes it particularly well placed to propose – and not to impose – values and rules that will contribute to enabling developing countries to take greater advantage of globalisation more generally.
We know that globalisation involves new risks, but it also offers new opportunities for developing countries in terms of their integration into world trade. We must respond by shaping globalisation. Europe will continue to play a leading role in the Doha round negotiations, for example, which are of fundamental importance to development, and will do everything in its power to ensure that they reach a successful conclusion by the end of the year, and we will continue to push for an equally successful outcome to the negotiations aimed at establishing Economic Partnership Agreements with the ACP countries.
We in Europe have to remember that we are only a small part of the world. Going back to climate change, Europe is now responsible for only 14% of global carbon emissions. We cannot act alone. All of our international partners need, therefore, to be involved in the struggle against global warming - and no longer just in terms of raising awareness, because the consequences of inaction are already becoming apparent all over the world. The time has come for concrete action, which these Development Days should help to define.
History books often speak of heroic acts, but they rarely mention the pragmatic, detailed, preventive measures which head off large-scale catastrophes. Prevention is generally a silent and thankless task. It is an activity which is difficult to measure or reward. But our efforts to protect the planet will be judged by future generations – because they will know the state of the planet that we bequeath to them. Let us not fail in this task.
Welcome, once again, to the Development Days, and thank you for your attention.