Friday, April 16, 2010

Swedish Official Marcus Oscarsson Speaks to DU Law Students About European Union Environmental Policies and the EU's Environmental Leadership Role

Marcus Oscarsson, a Swedish civil servant who worked for Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt during Sweden's European Union Presidency from July-December 2009, spoke recently to Professor Don Smith's Comparative Environmental Law course.

Mr. Oscarsson, shown in the picture on the left on the large screen, talked to the students from his Stockholm office by way of a video conference. The students in Denver could see and hear Mr. Oscarsson while he could see and hear them as well. The eight hours difference between Mountain Daylight time in the U.S. and Central European time in Stockholm faded away quickly once Mr. Oscarsson began.

Among the issues Mr. Oscarsson addressed were:
  • Why environmental issues are important in the EU: The "northern" countries, such as Denmark, Finland, Germany, and Sweden have active "Green" political parties that have raised the level of concern about the environment and in some cases -- such as Germany -- have been part of governing coalitions. Moreover, in countries such as Sweden the environment and nature are extremely important with many people spending large amounts of time hiking, boating, and so on.
  • EU policies regarding climate change: There is widespread agreement in the EU that climate change is taking place and that the consequences will be catastrophic if the world does not respond. On the other hand, the EU was very disappointed with the outcome of the Copenhagen UN climate change talks in December. One option that has been mentioned in the global media is that maybe the EU needs to let another, more environmentally "moderate" country, take the lead in future climate discussions, he said.
  • How the EU feels about its successes and failures in relation to being a "world model" on environmental issues: While most EU citizens are "very proud" of the EU's commitment to environmental leadership, there is concern that without the active involvement of the China and the U.S. any global successes will be limited at best, he said.
  • The political differences between the U.S. and EU countries regarding environmental issues: With the "proportional representation" electoral scheme that is in place in most EU countries (outside of the U.K.), Green parties are often pivotal actors in helping governments put together governing coalitions. This means that the Greens can play a larger role in defining environmental policies than in places, such as the U.S., where smaller parties simply do not play much of a role in determining who will govern a country.

Mr. Oscarsson was delighted with the wide ranging group of students from Argentina, Japan, Nigeria, and the U.S. "It was a real 'international' event," he said after his remarks.

According to Prof. Smith, "The European Union's leadership role in environmental policy issues is one that we often talk about in class. To have someone like Marcus Oscarsson, who is involved in Swedish policy making, speaking in real time to our students is highly beneficial to all of us since he can provide a true and highly informed 'European perspective' on why and how the EU has taken such an ambitious stand in relation to many key issues such as climate change." Prof. Smith went on to say, "We owe a large debt of gratitude to Marcus for taking time to speak to us and to share his insights with our students. I am certain that future DU students will also learn from Marcus since he has been a regular contributor to our program for several years now and is certain to remain so in the future."

In addition to his service to the Swedish government. Marcus Oscarsson has also served as Scandinavian correspondent for major European newspapers such as the U.K. Daily Mail, the Times of London, and the U.K. Sunday Telegraph, and the U.S.-based Global Post.

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