Why are critics calling Denmark’s new climate plan ‘unacceptable’?

Denmark’s government unveiled this week a plan it says will ensure all industrial sectors contribute to the country’s target of reducing CO2 emissions by 70 percent before 2030.

Climate minister Dan Jørgensen presents Denmark's roadmap to meet its 2030 climate goal.
Climate minister Dan Jørgensen presents Denmark's roadmap to meet its 2030 climate goal. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

The plan was presented on Wednesday by climate minister Dan Jørgensen at a briefing in Copenhagen.

“We are going to revisit the areas where we have (previously) made agreements. By 2025 we’ll have revisited all sectors at least once,” Jørgensen said in comments reported by news wire Ritzau.

The programme presented Wednesday is specifically focused on enabling Denmark to reach its national target of reducing emissions by 70 percent (from 1990 levels) by 2030.

It includes initiatives to be implemented in the energy, waste, recycling and agriculture sectors, proposals for sustainable industry and policies to increase use of electric and hybrid cars and renewable fuels.

The UN’s climate panel recently released a report in which it said projected a worst-case scenario of global temperature increases between 3.3 and 5.7 degrees Celsius by 2100. That is some way from the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to under 1.5 degrees and preferably 2 degrees by the end of the century.

“It’s with this background that I present a climate programme and plan of actions for a green Denmark, showing how we will reach our 70 percent target,” Jørgensen said.

The government plan contains 24 initiatives which will work towards meeting that target.

A climate law passed by parliament last year ratified the 70 percent target, but the specific policies that will ensure it were not set down. The government aims to have all initiatives in place by 2025, with this week’s announcement laying out some of those steps.

“In two years, we’ve made decisions that get us halfway to the target. That’s good because it happened with broad parliamentary backing and during a period when we were challenged by corona,” Jørgensen said.

Critics including researchers and parliamentary allies said the plan fails to address the most acute climate needs by setting down a plan to reach 2025 targets, newspaper Dagbladet Information reported on Thursday.

In addition to the 2030 target, the government also pledged to reduce emissions by 50-54 percent by 2025, following negotiations earlier this year with left wing allied parties.

Although the plan is the government’s first to set out a specific roadmap for Denmark’s climate action, the lack of answers on 2025 targets could leave the country with too little time to hit shorter term goals, according to experts.

“The climate programme does not address how we will reach (the 2025) goal. And that is important because if we are hit the 2025 goal, that increases the chance of meeting the 2030 goal,” professor Peter Møllgaard of the government’s independent climate advisory board Klimarådet told Information.

Red Green Alliance party spokesperson Peder Hvelplund said the failure to live up to 2025 targets in the programme was “completely unacceptable”.

“It’s a bit tiring that every time the government puts forward a plan of action, it looks a bit like a delaying plan. We have a clear agreement for a 2025 goal and the government must naturally deliver on that,” Hvelplund told Information.

The Red Green Alliance spokesperson called for a “high, uniform CO2 tax” and reforms in the agricultural sector as key elements that could ensure meeting the 2025 target.

Claus Ekman, director of The Ecological Council (Rådet for Grøn Omstilling) said there was a “hole” in the plan in relation to the 2025 goal.

“And when we look at how the government has pushed things into a corner time and again – both agriculture proposals and CO2 taxes – I’m concerned about the 2025 goal,” Ekman said to Information.

READ ALSO: Seven steps: How to reduce your climate impact as an international resident

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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.