Fabian Demicoli

Interview with Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action


Commissioner
for Climate Action Connie Hedgegaard talks about the aim behind the EU's pan
European awareness campaign 'A world you like. With a climate you like' – What is this campaign about? It is about creating a world that
we'd all like to live in. To get that, we need to deal with the climate
challenge. With this campaign we want to provide the positive vision that
motivates people and put focus on the existing solutions to climate change –
which need greater take-up by all of us.

Do people care at all about climate change anymore?

Yes, across Europe we see an
increasing number of people getting concerned about the climate challenge. No
wonder! With daily reports about record CO2 emissions, record ice
melts, record droughts, record rainfalls, record food prices.

Don't you think people are more pre-occupied with the economic crisis?

No, and it is not an either or. Most
people realise that the climate challenge didn't disappear just because we got busy
handling the economic crisis. And, yet, despite the growing awareness – many
people in many countries do very little themselves to take action. Many don't
even do the things that would save them time and money. One of the main points
of this campaign is actually to say: We need to fix the economy AND the climate
at the same time.

What is it you want people to do?

A simple example: turning down the
heating by just one degree can reduce your annual bill by 5-10% and it
contributes to fighting climate change. Why would people not be interested to
do that? It saves them money. And it helps reduce CO2-pollution. The same goes
for taking the bike to work. People in big European cities easily spend eight
full days a year in their car being stuck in traffic. By taking the bike you
save money. You save time. You save CO2. You even save your body
around four kilos of fat per year. Seriously: what's not to like?

How will you get the message across?

We try to make it concrete and
tangible what people can do. And we show where they will actually improve their
quality of life by doing the right thing for the climate. But this campaign is
also about listening. If people aren't doing this already, it is perhaps
because they don't yet know or because some barriers are holding them back. We
need to know more about what's holding them back in order to discuss with
Member States how to remove these barriers. 

Will changing habits matter at all?

It DOES matter. It means the world,
actually. By 2020, we could reduce CO2 pollution by an amount that
corresponds to the combined annual emissions of Ireland, France, Finland,
Belgium and Portugal if all 500 million Europeans changed habits in areas such
as eating, shopping, transport and heating. Each day, each citizen makes a lot of
choices. Whether these are sustainable or not actually matters.

Why should this campaign succeed in doing what other campaigns haven't
achieved?

First of all many countries in the EU
have not had that many campaigns – for instance in Southern Europe and the new
member states. So we focus on these. Second, we take a new approach by working
systematically with partners that help us spread the message. More than 75
organisations from all Member States had already signed up as official partners
on the first day of the campaign – business associations, NGOs, universities
and government institutions. And campaigns actually can change behaviour. When
I was a minister we did something similar. After the campaign had run for some
years, more than 90% of the population had heard of it. And more than half said
it had made them change habits.

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