Danish party calls for ‘green restart’ after coronavirus crisis

The Danish government's main supporting party has called for a "green restart" to the country's economy, with investments in heat pumps, charging stations for cars, new rail projects and incentives for replacing oil and gas boilers.

Danish party calls for 'green restart' after coronavirus crisis
A Nissan Leaf loading at a Clever loading point last year. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Ritzau Scanpix
“We need a green restart, so that the health crisis doesn't turn into a deep economic crisis, and so that the battle against the climate crisis does get left behind and forgotten,” Morten Østergaard, leader of the Social Liberal party said on Twitter. 
“If the restart of Denmark is to be green, now is the time to decide,” he later told TV2
The party played a key role after last summer in pushing the ruling Social Democrats into setting a goal of reducing  carbon emissions by 70 percent by 2030, one of the most ambitious in Europe. 
On Thursday, it proposed 13 green initiatives that it believes will help kickstart the Danish economy when it comes off life support after Easter, at the same time as bringing the country closer to meeting its challenging green target. 
Morten Østergaard in Denmark's parliament on Thursday. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix
The plans to relaunch Denmark's economy with a wave of public investment echo those floated by the opposition Liberal Party on Wednesday. 
The party's leader Jakob Ellemann-Jensen called for billions of kroner to be spent on infrastructure, public housing and offshore wind turbines. 
“We believe that these things can just as well be brought forward, so that many of the companies that have empty order books these days can get started,” Ellemann-Jensen said. 
Finance Minister Nicolai Wammen told TV2 that he would not reveal which, or any, of the proposals he might back until after the government had presented its own relaunch package. 
Among the Social Liberal party's proposals are: 
  • Spending 18.4bn kroner on making Denmark's housing greener and more energy efficient. 
  • Public funding for expanding the country's network of charging points for electric cars 
  • Eliminating tax on selling surplus heat from industrial processes, making it more attractive to capture and sell to public heating utilities. 
  • Spending 200m kroner on installing heat pumps, and setting up subsidies for disposing of oil and gas boilers. 
  • A 500m fund to speed the rapid phase out of coal. 
  • Funds for a high-speed rail connection between Ringsted and Odense, and upgrading the railway on the western side of Funen. 

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Danish government to serve vegetarian food only twice a week

Denmark's government is to force all government canteens to go vegetarian two days a week in a move to reduce national consumption of meat.

Danish government to serve vegetarian food only twice a week
Could this be the future of Danish government canteens? Photo: Olivier Douliery / AFP
According to Green Procurement for a Green Future, a new government procurement strategy announced on Thursday, all state-run kitchens will be required to serve only vegetarian food for two days a week. 
“I hope it will go down well with our employees. This is the government's proposal, it is not something we have agreed with others. And of course that is also something we have to discuss with the other political parties,” Finance Minister Nicolai Wammen told state broadcaster DR
“Put simply, this is one of the ways in which we can contribute to a smaller climate footprint – by having two days a week, where there is no meat on the menu in the state canteens. The other days you can have meat if you want.” 
As well as the two vegetarian days, the government has limited the number of days when beef and lamb can be served to just one a week. 
The new policy will apply to all the 85,000 people directly employed by the state, and may also apply to the 75,000 people employed in independent government agencies. 
The proposal may later be extended to independent institutions such as the train company DSB, schools, kindergartens and universities. 
After the announcement, Denmark's agriculture minister Mogens Jensen tweeted that with 800,000 meals served a day in public sector canteens, the decision could make a significant difference. 

The proposal has split Denmark, with the populist Danish people's party going so far as to call it “totally un-Danish”, and others complaining that the measure would not apply to canteens in the Danish parliament and ministerial offices, and that the government had not calculated what the impact of the measures would be on public sector emissions. 
“I'll eat whatever food's going, but I feel very irritated that someone wants to decide what kind of food that is,” said René Christensen, leader of the Danish parliament's environment and food committee. “It's totally un-Danish that others are going to decide what we eat for lunch.” 
Morten Messerschmidt, the party's vice chairman said that the proposals would even inspire him to eat more meat. 
“It's one thing for people to want to be vegans and vegetarians, and another thing to force people to,” he said. “I really think it's crazy.” 
On the other side, Carl Valentin, green spokesman for the Socialist Left party celebrated the decision. 
“It's simply so important to have two vegetarian days in state canteens,” he said. “To get our enormous meat use on the agenda has not been easy, but now we're moving.” 

Sikandar Siddique, leader of the Free Greens, said that the proposal was too unambitious. It whouldn't only be in government canteens, but all public sector ones, including schools and kindergartens.
Rita Bundgaard, chairman of HK Stat, which represents 23,000 government employees, complained about the proposal. 
“I cannot understand why we should be forced to have Tuesday and Thursday as green days, and then fish on Wednesdays. After all, I end up asking for a steak when I want to have a steak. I think I should have the opportunity to choose and combine what I put on my lunch plate, and I think everyone should be allowed to.”