Saying that the previous government's goal to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent in 2020 compared to 1990 levels will be too expensive for Danish businesses, Climate Minister Lars Christian Lilleholt said on Wednesday that he will not push to meet the benchmark.
Instead, Lilleholt said it is enough to stick to already-approved climate initiatives that the Danish Energy Agency (Energistyrelsen) estimates will result in a 37 percent carbon dioxide reduction.
“It will be very expensive for the Danish society to reach those last percentage points and will therefore impose extra costs on our business community. That is not what Denmark needs right now,” Lilleholt told Altinget.
Although a three percentage point difference may not seem overly significant, Lilleholt's remarks created a furore, especially in light of the coming climate talks in Paris.
The COP21 UN climate change conference in December is seen by many as one of the best chances to get the international community to commit to binding goals to curb climate change. By sinking Denmark's ambitions just months before the talks begin, critics argued that Lilleholt is sending a bad message.
“This is irresponsible because it comes just before the essential climate conference in Paris in December. Denmark is a frontrunner and a step back will be noticed,” Pia Olsen Dyhr, the leader of the Socialist People's Party (SF), told Altinget.
In addition to SF, the Social Liberals (Radikale), the Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) and even government support party the Conservatives voiced their disapproval of the scaled-back ambitions.
The Danish branch of environmental organization the World Wildlife Fund also cast doubt on Lilleholt's reasoning, telling Politiken that Denmark has created many green jobs in recent years and that failing to reach for loftier climate goals “is definitely not an extended hand to the Danish business community”.
On Twitter, Nordbo called the lower goals “damaging” to Denmark, while the Danish Ecological Council warned that Lilleholt's plan would risk “undermining” the Paris conference.
The Danish People's Party, the largest party in the so-called blue bloc that supports the Venstre government, said it would support Lilleholt's plan but without the Conservatives on board, it is uncertain if the government can muster a majority in parliament for settling for the 37 percent reduction mark.