by Deutsche Welle
Czech President Vaclav Klaus, one of the most prominent climate change doubters, is about to get a new platform: the EU presidency. Others in the bloc worry that he could stall important climate talks next year.
Klaus has called manmade global warming a myth and questioned sanity of Al Gore, the former US vice-president who received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for turning a spotlight on climate change.
Most recently, Klaus expressed hopes the EU would give up its ambitious plan to spearhead the global struggle against climate change in the face of the global financial crisis.
From his vantage point in Prague’s Hradcany castle, Klaus could be involved in negotiating a new set of EU climate laws while the Czech Republic chairs the EU in the first half of 2009.
That could happen if EU leaders fail to agree on a plan at their December summit, where a disputed proposal to cut EU greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 is on the table.
In any case, the Czechs will lead the EU in the run-up to a crucial global climate conference in Denmark late next year.
Climate on the backburner?
Having Klaus at the helm of the 27-member bloc “is clearly going to cause some anxiety,” said Simon Tilford, chief economist at the London-based Center for European Reform.
While presidential office in the Czech Republic is largely ceremonial and the center-right government of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek does not share Klaus’ views, western Europe worries that “Czechs would not attach as much priority” to the climate efforts, Tilford said.
“It is unfair to say: If we don’t agree this year we won’t have it,” he said. “But there are some concerns because the Czech government is not as enthusiastic.”
The Czech government has tried to alleviate such fears.
James Hunt, the Czech environment minister’s climate envoy, recently said that if internal EU squabbling spills into next year, “the Czech presidency will make every effort to achieve adoption” of the climate package in early 2009.
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