STRASBOURG, France, July 16 (UPI) -- Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt stepped into the leadership of the European Union with a call for the organization to meet the challenges of climate change.
Sweden took over the rotating EU presidency on July 1 and will hold the position until January. Reinfeldt on Wednesday spoke to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, stating his goals for his six-month term.
His speech touched on several vital issues, including the economic crisis affecting the world and ratification of the EU's Lisbon Treaty. But the first issue he talked of at length was climate change, which he termed "one of the biggest challenges of our generation."
Ironically, that call comes as Sweden takes the leadership position that was occupied the first half of the year by Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus, who has long argued that climate change isn't created through man-made actions.
Klaus's book on the issue -- "Blue Planet in Green Shackles" -- concludes that "the theory of global warming had the hypothesis on its causes … may be a bad theory, it may also be a valueless theory but in any case is a very dangerous theory."
Reinfeldt is of a much different option and let it be known since Sweden took over the EU presidency that climate change was going to be a focus of his tenure. The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change occurs this December in Denmark and is to consider the next steps after the Kyoto Protocol. Reinfeldt wants the meeting to have meaningful results.
"Twelve years ago, in Kyoto, a coalition of the willing was established," Reinfeldt said Wednesday. "But voluntary action alone is not enough. If we are to reach a global climate agreement, the journey from Kyoto to Copenhagen must go from a coalition of the willing to the responsibility of all."
He called on Europe to be united and act together to lead by example, and he said the best example would be national carbon dioxide taxes and emissions trading to encourage conservation and the development of alternative energy sources.
Last week's Group of Eight meeting indicated the problems of getting the wider world to accept such limitations. Where the developed world may be willing to make cuts, countries with developing economies say such limits would stunt their growth and hurt their populaces.
"Therefore, we must discuss how to finance investments in developing countries," Reinfeldt said. "We need to ensure a quick transfer of technology. And we need to make sure that the developing countries also take action to change the direction in which they are heading. In addition, we will also demand clear commitments in the medium term from countries outside Europe."
At the beginning of July, Reinfeldt pointed to steps Stockholm had taken in regards to climate change. He said that Sweden's economy has grown 50 percent since 1990, a period in which the country cut carbon emissions by 10 percent.
Additionally, Sweden gets 20 percent of its electrical power from renewable sources -- mainly hydroelectric and nuclear power -- with a target of 50 percent by 2020.
Reinfeldt said this is proof positive actions can be taken.
"We are facing one of the biggest challenges of our generation; a societal problem that, unlike many others, grows slowly and only in the wrong direction," Reinfeldt told the European Parliament.
"Our world has a fever and it is up to us to react."