Citizens’ petition for new climate law fails to gain backing of Danish parliament

A petition asking for new action on climate has failed to gain overall support in parliament, despite being backed by a sizeable proportion of MPs.

Citizens’ petition for new climate law fails to gain backing of Danish parliament
File photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

The petition, which was signed by 65,000 people making it eligible for parliamentary procedure, does not have an overall majority, with the government and Danish People’s Party not in support.

Entitled ‘Dansk klimalov nu’ (Danish climate law now), the petition seeks more affirmative action from the government on climate change.

Minister for the Environment Lars Christian Lilleholt said several times during parliamentary debate of the petition that the government saw positive elements and agreed with many of the positions set out in it.

Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) MP Ida Auken tweeted a video showing some of Lilleholt’s comments.

“We take an open stance on all the elements of the petition,” Lilleholt said, and stressed that the government’s position on climate had “moved”.

Auken argued that the petition was suitable to be used to form a new law “now”.

A new climate law, scheduled to be tabled after general elections set for no later than June this year, will draw inspiration from some of the elements of the petition, the Lilleholt said.

The Danish People’s Party adopted the same line as the government.

Christian Poll, spokesperson for the environment with the Alternative party, said that the line taken by the government did not match the ambition of the public petition.

Another opposition party, Pernille Skipper, lead spokesperson with the Red-Green Alliance, said that Lilleholt’s praise for the petition was “hot air”.

The minister rejected that claim.

“There are not many things in the petition which we can’t give our 100 percent support,” he said in response to Auken’s appeals for the government to vote in its favour.

The petition was raised by 11 environmental and developmental organisations.

It seeks a commitment from Denmark to set climate targets that match the Paris Agreement, and has a stated aim of preventing global temperature from rising by no more than 2 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial age.

Additionally, the petition calls for five-year climate targets to be set at least 15 years into the future.

Denmark’s current legislation for climate targets was set in 2014 under the previous Social Democrat-led government.

READ ALSO: Danish government asked us not to criticise: former climate council leader

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‘We still have a chance’: Danish minister’s relief after Glasgow climate deal

Denmark's climate minister Dan Jørgensen has expressed relief that a meaningful climate change deal was struck in Glasgow last night, after a last minute move by India and China nearly knocked it off course.

'We still have a chance': Danish minister's relief after Glasgow climate deal
Denmark's climate minister Dan Jørgensen speaks at the announcement of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance in Glasgow on Tuesday. Photo: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Ritzau Scanpix

“For the first time ever, coal and fossil fuel subsidies have been mentioned. I’m very, very happy about that,” he told Denmark’s Politiken newspaper. “But I am also very disappointed that the stronger formulations were removed at the last minute.” 

Late on Saturday, the world’s countries agreed the Glasgow Climate Pact, after negotiations dragged on while governments haggled over phasing out coal. 

Denmark is one of the countries leading the phase out of fossil fuels, formally launching the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) with ten other countries and states at the Glasgow summit on Tuesday, announcing an end to oil exploration last December, and committing to phase out coal by 2030 back in 2017. 

Jørgensen conceded that the deal struck on Saturday was nowhere near far-reaching enough to keep global temperature rises below 1.5C, which scientists have estimated is critical to limiting the impacts of climate change, but he said the decision to hold another summit in Egypt next year meant that this goal could still be reached. 

“The big, good news is that we could have closed the door today. If we had followed the rules, we would only have had to update the climate plans in 2025, and the updates would only apply from 2030,” he said, adding that this would be too late. “Now we can fight on as early as next year. This is very rare under the auspices of the UN.” 

Limiting temperature rises to 1.5C was still possible, he said. 

“We have a chance. The framework is in place to make the right decisions. There was a risk that that framework would not be there.” 

Jørgensen said that he had come close to tears when India launched a last-minute bid to water down the language when it came to coal, putting the entire deal at risk. 

“It was all really about to fall to the ground,” he said. “The assessment was that either the Indians got that concession or there was no agreement.” 

Sebastian Mernild, a climate researcher at the University of Southern Denmark, said he was disappointed by the lack of binding targets and global deadlines in the plan, but said it was nonetheless “a step in the right direction”, particularly the requirement that signatories to the Paris Agreement must tighten their 2030 emissions reduction targets by the end of 2022.

“It’s good that this thing with fossil fuels has got in,” he added. “It’s a pity that you don’t have to phase them out, but only reduce.”

He said the test of whether the Glasgow meeting is a success or failure would not come until the various aspects of the plan are approved and implemented by members states.