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ENVIRONMENT

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.” 
 
 
 
 
 

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ENVIRONMENT

‘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.

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