New Danish government puts climate change centre stage

Mette Frederiksen of The Danish Social Democrats address the press after finalizing the government negotiations at Christiansborg Castle in Copenhagen, Denmark, shortly after midnight midnight on 26 June 2019. Mette Frederiksen informed the press that The Danish Social Democrats will form a minority government backed by three other left-wing parties. [EPA-EFE/Mads Claus Rasmussen]

Only a few days after the European Union failed to agree on 2050 carbon neutral climate target, Denmark’s Social Democrats and their three center-left allies agreed on Wednesday (26 June) on a political program that aims to promote one of the most ambitious climate policies in the world.

Three weeks of negotiations between the Social Democrats’ leader Mette Frederiksen and her allies have produced an 18-page agreement outlining six broad priorities that she said will help “push Denmark in a new direction.”

The document, titled “A Fair Direction for Denmark,” includes cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2030, halting the sale of all new diesel and petrol cars from 2030 onward, introducing a binding reduction target for agriculture, and adopting a climate action plan as well as pushing for more ambitious goals within the EU and strengthening the country’s green diplomacy.

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The European Council failed to agree on Thursday (20 June) on a landmark climate strategy for 2050 as the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary and Poland baulked at the mention of a specific date, despite the efforts of France and Germany to convince them.

As it is, Denmark reached an emissions reduction of 35% in 2018, explained John Nordbo, Head of Climate Advocacy at Care Denmark. “Today’s announcement means the country is aiming at a twofold increase of its reduction target within the next 11 years as well as a 0% target by 2040,” he added.

This represents a U-turn from the previous Conservative-led government that had dropped any climate target and initiatives, he also said. “Today’s agreement is to make sure Denmark is back on track on the fight against global warming again. Quite luckily it coincides with the Finnish EU presidency that is about to begin,” he stressed.

The text says the target “is a very ambitious target, and it will be particularly difficult to reach the last part of the target from 65% to 70%,” and points out that the government will have to identify the necessary tools and measures in order to meet that goal.

The document also specifies it will do this in accordance with the country’s Climate Council together with other experts.

Green business

The document clearly underlines the business opportunities a transition to a low carbon economy offers to the country’s private sector.

“The world market for green transition is only getting bigger. In order to achieve the goal of limiting the temperature increases, the world community must over the next 11 years invest staggering 90,000 billion DKK in the green transition. It is a unique opportunity for Danish businesses to be exploited. Denmark must be known as a green entrepreneurial country,” the text reads.

Denmark is home to the world’s biggest turbine maker, Vestas Wind Systems A/S, and Orsted A/S, the world’s biggest operator of offshore wind parks.

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Germany’s wind sector is barely growing any more. To achieve its self-imposed 65% target for renewables, Germany has made the promise, for the first time, to heavily expand its offshore wind farms. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Support from civil society

In issuing their document, the four parties knew that they had the support of Danish civil society.

“Global warming has been the number one topic during the electoral campaign in Denmark,” John Nordbo said. “This is because of the heat wave and drought last summer. It has opened people’s eyes, showing them climate change is real and it is already underway”.

He also said that the youth movement initiated by Greta Thunberg in neighbouring Sweden added some momentum around the fight against global warming during the electoral campaign, culminating in a petition from civil society that called for a climate law in Denmark with a binding target that obtained the 50,000 signatures needed for the text to be sent to the Parliament.

The Social Democrats emerged as the biggest party in the June 5 elections after Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen’s centre-right bloc was defeated, ending four years in power. The election’s biggest loser was the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party.

Frederiksen informed Queen Margrethe II that she will lead a minority government backed by three other parties, giving it a majority in parliament. At the age of 41, Frederiksen becomes Denmark’s youngest prime minister.

 

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