Hopenhagen After All? New Danish Government Announces Ambitious Climate Targets

Denmark’s international reputation took a bad hit from the mismanaged UN climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009. Thousands of people had to queue out-of-doors in the Danish December cold for hours and Prime Minister Rasmussen had to apologise to delegates as he didn’t know the rules of procedure very well. Initially dubbed “Hopenhagen” by the organisers, the conference was quickly re-named “Flopenhagen” afterwards (there’s a detailed account of the conference by the Wuppertal Institute at this finely-crafted link).

Things may be looking up now. According to Reuters, the new government adopted a target to reduce Denmark’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2020 from 1990 levels. The previous government had set the target at 30%. The new government also aims to increase the renewable energy share in electricity supply to 50% by 2020. So apparently the Danish government no longer wants to play the global game of mikado (“whoever moves first loses”) that has been stalling the UN climate negotiations for two decades.

Denmark is a small country but it has been one of the trailblazers of the renewable energy revolution. And it will have the EU presidency in the first half of 2012. In this function it will be responsible for driving forward internal EU policy as well as for leading the EU in the UN climate negotiations. And while the US continues to be absent without leave the EU is arguably the only player that can inject the desperately needed momentum into the UN process. So here’s to hoping that the new government will bring not only great ambition but also great political savvy to the negotiation tables.

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