EU's lead climate negotiator shares Gore's optimism in Abu Dhabi

Both Gore and Werksman spoke at this week’s World Future Energy Summit (WFES) in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. While Gore received one of this year’s Zayed Future Energy awards for his lifetime achievement in fighting global warming and climate change, Werksman spoke at a separate January 19 event organized by the European Commission. The purpose of the EU conference was to showcase EU leadership in technology and innovation in the renewables sector.

Werksman pointed to three specific developments in the past year to explain his optimism: “The European Union’s announcement of its 2030 energy and climate package, which was shortly followed by the statements from the U.S. and China, which had never participated in an international agreement with binding commitments before. And so the announcement of their intended targets at the end of last year was very important in creating some momentum.” This last development was also singled out by Gore as a critical turning point in international climate negotiations.

Finally, Werksman pointed to another recent development, which will prove critical in bringing developing countries on board, many of which have been overwhelmed by the policy framework and administrative steps needed to establish a system of emission targets and measures to carry them out. In formulating such targets the “national circumstances” of such countries will need to be taken into account. After all, 195 parties will assemble in Paris, so all of these countries will need to feel comfortable with any obligations they are about to commit to.

According to Werksman, the newly established Green Climate Fund will provide critical assistance to these countries as they try to formulate these targets and ways to implement them. Both developed and developing countries have dedicated over $20 billion to the Green Climate Fund.

Also speaking at the WFES EU conference, Claude Turmes, a leading Green member of the European parliament, likewise emphasized the need to build bridges to arrive at such binding climate commitments. Turmes blamed the Copenhagen fiasco on the lack of any clear path to get from a high carbon society to a low carbon society. He likened this path to traversing a river, where big stones are needed to provide a safe crossing. "We need to put stones in this river. If I have a big stone called renewable energy, if I have a big stone called energy efficiency, and if I have a big stone called grids and interconnections, then I know what I have to cross. I will not be afraid that I will drown.”

These are the “climate solutions” needed throughout the world and for members of the PV industry in the audience it was nice to hear Turmes single out PV as the breakthrough technology on the renewables front. For Turmes, it might also prove the critical technology to bring electricity to the 1.5 billion people lacking electrification, arguably the other big challenge next to the climate crisis.