2010 Barbara Ward Lecture: Connie Hedegaard suggests tougher targets for CO2

European commissioner for climate change Connie Hedegaard raised the issue of setting tougher targets for reducing Europe's carbon emissions at the 2010 Barbara Ward Lecture.
Barbara Ward Lectures
A series of lectures by the current generation of outstanding women in development, in honour of IIED's founder
Connie Hedegaard stressed the importance of setting tough targets for reducing carbon emissions when she gave the 2010 Barbara Ward Lecture

Hedegaard raised the possibility of setting tougher targets for cutting carbon emissions when she spoke at the IIED event in London. She said that more demanding targets could be the only way to boost green investment and innovation.

Europe has a target of reducing carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 from 1990 levels. Hedegaard said the cost of meeting this target has dropped significantly, mainly due to the economic crisis that had cut industrial production and driven down prices.

She said a tougher goal — reducing the European Union's carbon emissions by 30 per cent — would cost relatively little extra money to achieve.

She said no position had been taken by Europe on setting a new unilateral target. But she warned that the decrease in CO2 emissions during the recession meant that the current goal was too low to drive the clean energy innovation Europe needed.

She said China was investing almost 10 times as much as the EU in plans for a low-carbon economy. Firms from China and India are now among the top 10 producers of wind turbines. And most of the photovoltaic panels used for solar energy are now made in China and Taiwan.

She said: "I firmly believe that Europe needs to do more to drive our innovation and leadership forward if we are to avoid risking being left behind."

Hedegaard also said the US Senate's delay in passing an energy bill "has been a real disappointment". She said that EU negotiators had tried to avoid "bashing the Americans too much" last year, believing it might be counterproductive.

Read the full text of Connie Hedegaard's speech.

About Connie Hedegaard

Connie Hedegaard (Photo: Magnus Fröderberg)


Connie Hedegaard is a Danish politician and European Commissioner for Climate Action.

She was elected to the Danish Parliament at the age of 23 — becoming the youngest Danish MP ever elected.

After six years in parliament she left politics for a career in journalism. She worked as a journalist at the Danish national newspaper Berlingske Tidende. In 1998, she became head of the news bulletin service Radioavisen at the Danish Broadcasting Corporation.

She returned to politics and in 2007 she was put in charge of setting up the Danish Ministry of Climate and Energy. A notable achievement was her role in introducing Denmark's Energy Policy 2008–11. The policy made her country the first in the world to commit to an overall energy reduction, not just a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

She hosted the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009. Shortly afterwards she was appointed as the EU's first ever commissioner for climate action.

Her publications include "When the climate got hot", published in Denmark in 2008, as well as contributions to numerous books.