Environmental organizations cheer ‘historic’ Danish climate goal

Greenpeace and the Danish Society for Nature Conservation (Danmarks Naturfredningsforening) welcomed an initial agreement by political parties on Wednesday to commit to ambitious new targets for greenhouse gas reduction.

Environmental organizations cheer 'historic' Danish climate goal
Young climate demonstrators in Aarhus earlier this year. Photo: Henning Bagger / Ritzau Scanpix

The Social Democrats, Socialist People’s Party (SF) and Red Green Alliance on Wednesday evening reached agreement over a target to reduce Danish greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent by 2030.

“This is incredibly ambitious, I’m very excited. It will make Denmark one of the most ambitious countries in the world on climate and if you’d asked a year ago whether we’d be here now, I’d have said ‘no’,” Danish Society for Nature Conservation president Maria Reumert Gjerding told Ritzau.

Greenpeace Nordic general secretary Mads Flarup Christensen echoed those sentiments.

“It will take a historic effort to set these targets and, not least, to achieve them. If a Social Democrat-led government can get this done, it would be a huge win, both for the climate and for Danish voters,” Christensen said.

The three parties met at Copenhagen’s Christiansborg on Wednesday to discuss climate targets, and have now agreed on the goal of a 70 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, Ritzau reports.

But the fourth of the ‘red bloc’ of allied parties involved in negotiations over a new government, the Social Liberals, were not present at the meeting. As such, the target has not been backed by all of the parties given an overall mandate by voters in the general election earlier this month.

The Social Liberals have previously stated their commitment to such a target, however.

Danish voters should give themselves a pat on the back for their activism and engagement on climate, according to Gjerding.

“This shows that the massive mobilization of the public (over climate) during the election has been listened to,” she said.

In March, around 30,000 people took park in the national Climate March, which took place in several locations across Denmark.

The Confederation of Danish Industry (DI), a private interest organization made up of approximately 10,000 companies, said ambition on climate was a good thing, but that methods of achieving the targets must be set out.

“We have not seen the methods or financing politicians will use to achieve this. And we think it’s crucial to address this,” DI director Tine Roed told Ritzau.

“We want to be ambitious. We also want to play our part. Danish companies have a lot of technological solutions with regard to green energy conversion,” Roed added.

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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.