With the UK signing into law a pledge to a net zero carbon polluting society, it is now a historical fact that Denmark did not make the title of green leader of the world in time. However, the country might still get the chance to be a prominent runner up. As the leading nation in wind energy, we should have gone all the way, decades ago. But really, who cares who’s in the lead, as long as something is getting done! Let’s hope it’s not too late.
A New Green Government
20 days after the general elections in Denmark on June 5th 2019, a new left-leaning social democratic government was formed with Mette Frederiksen as prime minister, replacing the right-leaning government under the leadership of Lars Løkke Rasmussen from Venstre.
A memorandum of political understanding between the now to-be ruling parties Socialdemokratiet, Radikale Venstre, Socialistisk Folkeparti, and Enhedslisten was sent out to independent media titled: “A Fair Direction For Denmark.”
I have been following this election extra carefully ever since it became clear last year that the main fighting ground this time around would be the climate crisis. Despite Denmark being a very small country I thought you should know that the green fight actually did arbitrate the outcome, and therefore I will translate the part of the document that describes the green ambitions of this new government constellation.
In many respects the former government had green ambitions too, but this new government seems to push the envelope even further. The question is: will this period be just another round of green talk and stale action? We’ll see… Anyway, without further delay, here’s the translation:
A Green & Sustainable Future
The world and Denmark are in a climate crisis. We consume more of the earth’s resources than it can sustain, and it has consequences. The last four years are the hottest years that have been measured on earth. The sea level in the oceans rises with record speed and we have set the low bar for how little sea ice is left in the Arctic.
We are not only experiencing a climate crisis. We are also in a biodiversity crisis and a crisis for our environment and nature. More than 2,000 plant and animal species in Denmark alone are in danger of disappearing. And too many Danes die of or get sick due to air pollution.
As a world community, we have faced great challenges victoriously before, and we can do that again. But the premise is that we limit the temperature increases. If we are to succeed, we need to hurry.
It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s also the most economically responsible strategy. In Denmark, we enjoy skilled Danish employees and a forward-thinking Danish businesses that has taken chances, has taken the lead, and is ready to do so again — but it requires political will.
The world market in the green transition is only getting bigger. In order to achieve the goal of limiting the temperature increases, the world community must invest a staggering DKK 90,000 billion ($14,000 billion) over the next 11 years in the green transition. It is a unique opportunity for Danish businesses. Denmark must be known as a green entrepreneurial country.
A new government must pursue a sustainable policy, in which Denmark once again takes the lead for the green transition, raises the ambitions for climate, environment, and nature significantly, and which ensures that Denmark lives up to the Paris agreement.
It is the most important task the world faces. A new government will have the ambition to be among the governments in the world that do most — both at home and internationally — to counteract climate change and the deterioration of our environment and nature. To achieve these goals, a very comprehensive effort is needed throughout the government period, which must be done in a socially balanced manner.
A new government pledges to:
Introduce binding targets. In the next parliamentary year, a new government will submit a proposal for a climate law with binding targets and binding long-term goals, including:
A target of reducing greenhouse gases in 2030 by 70% compared to 1990 levels. It is a very ambitious target, and it will be particularly difficult to reach the last part of the target from 65% to 70%. It will require methods that we do not yet know, and therefore a close involvement of the Climate Council and other experts is needed to achieve these goals.
The Climate Council must assist a new government in deciding which reduction targets and methods ensure that Denmark meets the Paris agreement temperature targets.
That an annual follow-up is done on the goals, which must take place in the context of the finance law process.
Transform the transport sector. As part of a green mobility plan, a large number of initiatives are needed to ensure significantly more electric cars on the roads and the necessary conversion of the transport sector:
A stop of sales of all new diesel and petrol cars from 2030 and tougher environmental zones.
It is examined whether the commission for green passenger car transition can advance its work so that final reporting is completed before the end of 2020. A political agreement must be reached as soon as possible to ensure the security of the industry and the car owners and the peace of mind of the green transition.
A new government will negotiate an agreement on infrastructure, so that climate and environmental considerations are included to a much greater extent. This requires, among other things, investments in public transportation and cycling.
Initiate initiatives to ensure more sustainable aviation.
Ensure climate contributions from agriculture. A binding reduction target for agriculture must oblige the industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The agricultural support must be used actively as a tool to give farmers an incentive to switch to more sustainable production and in this way support the green transition in the industry. A new government will also initiate a farmland reform, including the procurement of agricultural land for wild nature.
Adopt a climate action plan. The Climate Act must immediately be followed by a climate action plan to help ensure that national reduction targets are achieved. In addition to the measures above describing what’s necessary from the transport and agricultural sectors, the action plan must also include the following elements: 1) Energy efficiency improvements, among other things with requirements for energy savings in public buildings, 2) A national strategy for sustainable construction, 3) An overall strategy for electrification in the transport sector, industry and society in general, 4) Increase funding for green research and demonstration programs, 5) Investigating the possibility that Denmark, together with the North Sea countries, develop a common strategy to significantly expand and exploit the offshore wind potential, 6) explore the possibility that Denmark will build the first energy island connected with a minimum of 10 GW by 2030 at the latest, 7) Support afforestation, 8) Climate adaptation, including a stronger coordination of efforts in relation to coastal protection.
Combat plastic contamination and ensure better drinking water protection. Higher charges on plastic as well as a plastic action plan to help reduce plastic consumption and ensure fewer types of packaging. To reduce harmful chemicals in everyday life reintroduce the tax on harmful substances such as PVC, phthalates and PVC films. A survey is made of the challenges in relation to Denmark’s groundwater as a starting point for an overall effort to ensure better protection of drinking water and reduce use of pesticides. Among other things, this must be done by more near-wood forest and by examining the possibility of prohibiting spraying and fertilization in protected natural areas. It must be ensured that the targeted regulation works so that the discharge of nitrogen is noticeably reduced. The government will present a plan for the implementation and compliance of the EU Water Framework Directive. Furthermore, it is a priority to handle and clean up the major pollution of prior generations.
Take responsibility for more ambitious goals in the EU and strengthen green diplomacy. The EU started out as a coal and steel union. A new Danish government will set the goal for the EU to become a climate union in the future. It means, among other things, Denmark must work to raise the EU’s climate goals in 2030, so that the EU will be climate neutral in 2050, and that the EU’s future budget has more focus on climate. At the same time, Denmark must, together with other ambitious countries, push for the expansion of renewable energy in the EU so that the EU becomes self-sufficient with energy. A new government will also strengthen green diplomacy and thereby increase Denmark’s international commitment. A new government will initiate a new development policy strategy in which increased climate assistance is central.
Create greater biodiversity and more forest. There is a need for more untouched forest and more cohesive
nature areas where nature has room to spread out on more natural premises than today. One biodiversity package should give biodiversity better conditions in Denmark. The plan must contain clear objectives for how much of Denmark’s area must be allocated to wild nature as natural zones (incl. untouched forest and national parks), as well as concrete initiatives to ensure that the objectives are achieved.
Strengthen the green calculation models. The consideration of climate and the green transition must be integrated into The Ministry of Finance’s calculation models, and the work to develop greener calculation models must be ensured and extended. A dialogue is initiated with Statistics Denmark on how a model with a green national account and GDP can be strengthened.
Raise the goals of organic foods and strengthen efforts against food waste. A new government will raise ambitions for more organic foods in Denmark, based on the goal of doubling the organic farm area, exports of organic foods and the Danes’ consumption in 2030 and take initiatives that reduce food waste.
Involvement of stakeholders. With the goal of qualifying and anchoring Denmark’s green efforts, a new government will continuously involve stakeholders in the work, both independent experts, citizen movements and interest organizations. This applies, for example, in various areas such as promoting a circular strategy economy, transition to a more energy-efficient society, smarter waste sorting and conversion of it public sector procurement, so that it more strongly supports the green transition.