COP25: Europe must decide faster, climate doesn’t wait, says Danish Energy Minister

Danish Energy Minister Dan Jorgensen. [EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ]

This article is part of our special report COP25: Countries pressed to deliver.

As member states are pressed to agree on Europe’s 2050 carbon neutrality target, Denmark is the star of the show at COP25 after the country’s Parliament adopted a legally binding emissions reduction target of 70% by 2030. Danish energy minister Dan Jørgensen explained to EURACTIV what’s behind the country’s new climate act.

“Our new climate act is very well perceived here at COP25. For me as a minister, I am not used to people clapping when I enter a room and this happened a few times. Colleagues are congratulating me and I think what we did provides them with ammunition in their domestic debate and enables them to do the same thing in their own countries,” Jørgensen said on the sidelines of COP 25, which is due to end officially tomorrow.

“Because what they need is being able to point to a country and say, listen, if they can do it, and in a way that does not hinder competitiveness and lower the level of living standards, we can do it as well,” he added.

The Danish Parliament adopted on 6 December a climate law that aims to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2030 compared to the 1990 level. The law also targets carbon neutrality by 2050. New legally-binding targets will be set every five years, with a ten-year perspective, the first of these to take place in 2020.

“The fact that it is legally binding means that when we are telling countries to also step up their ambitions, we think we are showing the way,” Jørgensen said.

He added that the Danish target is so ambitious that the government has to acknowledge it does not yet know how to fully reach it. “Scientists and experts are showing how to reach up to 65% of the target, how we meet the last 5%, this is what we still have to figure out,” he explained.

Jørgensen stressed that the new legislation is not only supported by a broad majority of the Parliament – 8 out of 10 parties, 167 out of 179 mandates – it is also supported by large sections of the Danish society, from the Danish business association on one side to NGOs like Greenpeace on the other.

“They don’t usually agree on most things but they did on this piece of legislation,” he said.

Denmark covered 41% of its electricity demand from wind energy in 2018, the highest level in Europe. By 2028, renewable energy is to produce more than 100% of the country’s national electricity consumption, and surplus electricity will be exported to neighbouring countries.

Since 1990, Denmark GDP has grown by 55%, energy consumption has fallen by 6% and CO2 emissions dropped 38%.

EU-ETS financed

The Danish energy minister said setting such a high target means increasing investments, as well as improving the existing and pushing new technologies. He underlined that the market’s reaction to the new climate law has been positive so far.

“We are a welfare state with a high level of equality, we are able to compete on all the markets and we want to maintain that position,” Jørgensen stressed.

The energy minister acknowledged that it will mean mobilising large investment.

“But an investment is defined by something you can monetise into something you expect you get an output from. And I think many of the investments we will be doing will turn out to be helpful to the Danish economy. Look at wind power, for instance, when we started in 1991,” he said.

He specified that Denmark will not introduce a national financial scheme in order to finance the new project, meaning that no CO2-pricing will be introduced. He said Denmark will instead use the EU Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS).

Europe has to act faster 

Commenting on the on-going European Council meeting in Brussels, Jørgensen said he was hoping to see an agreement reached at the Council, a decision which would send a positive signal to negotiators and ministers gathered at COP25.

“But it is even more important to set a target for 2030. Because if we don’t push a decision in the shorter term, then I find it hard to believe that we can achieve the long-term goal. The way nature works, as climate science tells us, means that we cannot wait: the CO2 we emit now will remain in the atmosphere for decades,” he said.

“We must be honest: European decision-making has so far been too slow. It must be intensified, accelerated, because the climate will not wait. We can’t negotiate with nature,” he added.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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