The EU is currently negotiating a trade agreement with the four founding members of Mercosur. Negotiations cover a broad range of issues—but 1) do they consider climate change and 2) can compromises on environmental issues be found? In our interview, Christian Hübner, Head of the Regional Programme Energy Security and Climate Change Latin America, notes points of contention and shares how the EU and Mercosur can both benefit from deeper cooperation on energy and climate policy.
What can we expect from the diplomatic dialogues between the EU and Mercosur—how can they best advance climate action?
On a global stage, the EU and the MERCOSUR form a very strong political block. Together, they are able to bring ambitious climate policy onto a multilateral level, which is important especially in times when global climate policy is affected by political uncertainties, like the withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement. Therefore, diplomatic dialogues on all political levels between the EU and MERCOSUR are crucial to developing sustainable partnerships.
How do you view the role of climate change and the environment in current free trade negotiations? (What are the implications of and discussions around the particularly contentious topic of food security?)
Climate change and environmental themes are highly affected by different positions taken in the agricultural sector. An issue in this context is ethanol. There are concerns about the environmental consequences of replacing South American rainforests in favour of sugar cane (ethanol) cultivation for human food production and its effects on food security. On the other hand, the overall climate benefits of utilising biofuels are widely debated. I think all of these concerns cannot be dismissed.
But it seems to me, both sides use environmental arguments as an underlying tactic to negotiate their trade positions. I am personally very concerned about this. Environmental protection, especially in fighting climate change, is too important to become a political plaything for trade agreements. I hope they will find a compromise which both protects the environment and allows free trade.
Imagine your telephone rings, and it is Ms. Mogherini calling. She is preparing for the EU-CELAC Summit and asks how EU external action can advance climate and energy policy without undermining other SDGs in Latin America. What do you respond?
I would reflect on and talk to her about problems common to both the EU and Mercosur. Latin America is highly affected by the impacts of climate change and needs both financial and technical support to conquer these issues. The EU is able to help and is already helping. These efforts can be increased, especially in the field of developing local climate change adaptation capacities. Especially given Argentina’s coming G20 presidency, deeper cooperation could create political benefit. Take energy transition policy for example—Europe needs raw materials like lithium, which Latin America has, and Latin America needs energy technology from the EU. Another point to consider is the EU’s energy supply. The US is establishing a transatlantic gas corridor to the EU via LNG (liquefied natural gas). I think it would be worth thinking about how Latin America would be able to become an energy supplier for the EU too.
Christian Hübner is head of the Regional Programme Energy Security and Climate Change Latin America at Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V. You can find him on Twitter at @ch_huebner or on his blog: http://www.huffingtonpost.de/christian-huebner/. The interview was conducted by Stella Schaller, adelphi.