Danish energy minister: 'We will pursue fossil-free future no matter what'

  

As the smoke cleared from the European Commission rooms where the 2030 climate and energy package had been thrashed out, Martin Lidegaard explained that the really tough debate was only just beginning.

Martin Lidegaard is Denmark’s climate and energy minister. He was talking to EurActiv’s Arthur Neslen.

The 2030 climate and energy package depends on countries such as denmark over-achieving on renewables deployment, while others like Poland and the UK underachieve. Do you think that’s a sustainable way to decarbonise – and is it even fair?

Denmark has no problem pursuing our present path towards a complete fossil fuel-free society and we are going to do that no matter what. But of course we have, in the weeks and months to come, to really discuss in depth how exactly that new binding model for the EU as such - and not put on every member state - how we can roll that out in a fair way. And in a way that ensures that we can actually achieve our binding target. We have to explore that further in the weeks and months to come and that’s one of the things that we’re going to do very carefully in the Danish government.

Ok, but there are no binding targets on member states, so if the bloc as a whole goes off track towards meeting the 27% goal, do you really think the same member states that are lagging behind will vote to make the target binding on themselves, and make their lives more difficult? Can you see Britain or Poland doing that?

I hope that even those states that have been sceptical of binding targets for each member state will see the benefit of having a common binding target, simply because if you want to plan a cost-efficient, cheap deployment of renewables in the EU, it is a precondition that we know how much renewables we are going to integrate into the European energy system. It takes a number to plan the grid expansion. We need an integrated market with the capacity required to ensure that we can get an efficient deployment of renewables. If we are not going to plan our capacity it will be more expensive than it needs to be. That is why we are so supportive of a binding target. 

Do you think the package will go through the European Council easily? President Barroso said that there would be a lot of opposition from member states who felt that it was going too far, too fast a time of recession. Do you think there could be a Polish veto on some areas?

It is too early to say. What I am pretty sure about is that we will have discussions. We will have a rather hard political debate about this because we have very different points of view.  

Which will be the toughest areas?

Some member states would have preferred that the EU wait until after 2015 to make new targets for climate and renewables. They are few and I am very, very satisfied that the Commission has played out with a target for CO2 reductions which actually makes it possible and puts us on a path to our 2050 targets. I think that is a good starting point for the negotiations. It’s going to be a pretty tough debate but we are ready from the Danish side and we expect to put a formal Danish position on the table within the very weeks.

There was a lot of uncertainty about what sort of renewables target we would end up with until the last minute. What factors led to the binding EU-wide 27% number and was the new German energy minister Sigmar Gabriel one of them?

Yes. I think it’s fair to say that the states that have been in favour of a binding renewables target, especially Germany and Denmark have been proactive in the days and weeks up until the position was taken. My prime minister personally called Mr Barroso the day before the decision was made and I also know that the Germans were active together with likeminded countries, such as Ireland, France and Italy. I hope and think that has had an impact but of course when it comes to member states, what made the difference is that it was a good idea; the argument that we need a binding target to be able to plan our energy future. That was the argument that made the difference and, of course, we have done what we could do to promote that argument.

What role did the UK play in the renewables debate? Many in Brussels believe that it won everything that it wanted.

Well the UK has played a very strong role in gathering a green growth group to promote the idea of an ambitious CO2 target. The UK can take a lot of credit for that. We had different opinions about a binding renewables target. I actually think that what came out [of the European Commission] was too compromised. We were happy that we got a binding target. We just want to ensure that it will actually be binding and we would like a more ambitious level, whereas the UK has ensured that we won’t get it for each and every member state. That was a compromise. Now, that is [actually] the suggestion of a compromise and it will of course have to be negotiated in the weeks and months to come as well.

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