Danish opposition split over future climate laws

Opposition parties in Denmark have differing views over a new climate law, should they gain parliamentary majority after the coming general election.

Danish opposition split over future climate laws
Climate protestors in Aarhus in March. Photo: Henning Bagger / Ritzau Scanpix

The Social Democrats want new legislation which requires future governments to report the status on climate and make necessary adjustments once every five years.

But key support party the Socialist People’s Party (SF) does not agree with that approach, instead advocating mandatory targets for the reduction of CO2 emissions annually, newspaper Politiken reports.

“There must be an annual climate budget,” SF leader Pia Olsen Dyhr told Politiken.

“If that is exceeded – or expected to be exceeded – there should be a legal obligation to immediately set in motion new initiatives to quickly get back on track,” she said.

“We do not have time to wait three, four or five years to correct our course of greenhouse gas emissions are too high, action must be taken immediately,” she added.

The left-wing Red Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) wants a bi-annual check of Denmark’s reduction of greenhouse gases, with a legal obligation on the government to present solutions if targets are not being met.

The Alternative party, which is primarily environment-focused, has said that Social Democrat targets on climate are not ambitious enough. The Social Democrats want a 100 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050, while Alternative wants the target to be reached by 2040.

Meanwhile, the Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) party wants a 60 percent reduction by 2030 to be set. Leader Morten Østergaard has threatened to use his party’s parliamentary mandates to bring down a future Social Democrat-led government if the target is not implemented.

“We can only support a new government if it, on the area of climate, commits to a CO2 reduction target by 2030. If it does not do that, it will not have our support. We will be – actively – against it,” Østergaard said.

READ MORE: The Local's 2019 general election coverage

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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.