Denmark's Government Readies U-Turn on Ambitious Climate Targets

Denmark Still Climate Leader Despite Cuts: Minister
  • Move coincides with Obama making global climate appeal
  • Finance minister says Denmark is still environmental leader

Denmark’s widening budget deficit is forcing its policy makers to take some hard decisions in the very area where they are considered global role models: the fight against climate change.

Denmark’s Liberal government is to reverse ambitious CO2 emission targets introduced by the previous administration. It will also drop plans to phase out coal-fired power plants and become fossil-fuel free by 2050, according to leaked documents first reported by newspaper Information.

The news about Denmark’s cost-cutting measures, which also include a reduction in green funding initiatives worth 340 million kroner ($51.5 million) through 2019, came on the same day on which U.S. President Barack Obama issued a global appeal for urgent action in the buildup to a United Nations summit in Paris in December.

Danish Finance Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said growing pressure on the country’s public finances means the government needs to prioritize.

“There are no areas” of the budget “that won’t be subject to a critical audit,” he told Bloomberg in an interview at his office in Copenhagen.

Energy Targets

Denmark was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the European Union’s 2020 climate and energy targets and is home to the world’s biggest wind turbine maker, Vestas Wind Systems A/S. The EU Environment Agency is based in Copenhagen.

EU member states have pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from their 1990 levels by 2020. The previous Danish government had vowed to reduce them by 40 percent over the same period.

Frederiksen said the “microscopic adjustment” now being considered would still make Denmark a champion of environmentalism and dismissed criticisms from Christian Ege Joergensen of Denmark’s Ecological Council, a pressure group, who had told Information he was “horrified” by the change of tack.

“Denmark doesn’t have anything to be embarrassed about with its climate goals, we consider ourselves leaders in this area,” the finance minister said.

For more, read this QuickTake: Climate Change