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ENVIRONMENT

Denmark must lead by example to prevent grim future in IPCC report: climate minister

Denmark's contribution to global emissions is tiny, but the country can still make a big contribution if it leads by example, the country's climate minister has said, as a new IPCC report warns that time is running out for the climate.

Denmark must lead by example to prevent grim future in IPCC report: climate minister
Denmark's climate minister Dan Jørgensen said the report was "very serious reading". Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

Speaking at a press conference after the publication of the latest interim report from the International Panel on Climate Change, Jørgensen said that Denmark’s efforts to reach its target of a 70 percent cut in emissions compared to 1990 levels could inspire other countries with greater emissions to take urgent action. 

“We can show other countries that a green transition can be implemented without compromising quality of life and without costing jobs,” he said. 

In addition, we in Denmark, if we push ourselves, will find new solutions. The development of offshore wind farms is a good example, which today is an integral part of climate efforts throughout the world.”

Monday’s report warns that temperatures are likely to rise by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels over the next two decades, exceeding the upper limit targeted by the 2015 Paris climate agreement, and leading to extreme weather and widespread human suffering. Only rapid, dramatic reductions in emissions over the next few years can prevent this from happening. 

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I’m concerned. This is very serious reading. If the alarm bells are not already ringing and jangling, they should do so now,” Jørgensen said at the press conference at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. 

“At around 1.5C, climate change will become so severe in many parts of the world that we will no longer be able to tolerate it. The change will hit poorer parts of the world particularly hard.” 

Denmark emits just 0.1 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gases emissions.

Maria Gjerding, president of the Danish Society for Nature Conservation, told Ritzau that the Danish government was not doing enough, and called for it to bring in a comprehensive national tax on carbon emissions, and to return more of Denmark’s agricultural land to nature. 

“We must have CO2 taxes. It must cost something for companies to emit CO2,” she said. “We must convert agricultural land to nature. Livestock production must be reduced, and we must ensure that agriculture adapts to produce something completely different, much more plant-based food.” 

“It is urgent. It is within the next few years that something must happen. The Danish government must do something now.” 

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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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