Denmark Readies U-Turn on Ambitious Climate Targets

cartoon climate talksDenmark’s widening budget deficit is forcing its policy makers to take some hard decisions in the very area where they are considered global role models: the fight against climate change. Denmark’s Liberal government is to reverse ambitious CO2 emission targets introduced by the previous administration. It will also drop plans to phase out coal-fired power plants and become fossil-fuel free by 2050, according to leaked documents first reported by newspaper Information. The news about Denmark’s cost-cutting measures, which also include a reduction in green funding initiatives worth 340 million kroner ($51.5 million) through 2019, came on the same day on which U.S. President Barack Obama issued a global appeal for urgent action in the buildup to a United Nations summit in Paris in December. —Peter Levring, Bloomberg, 1 September 2015

A subsidy for green heating systems worth more than ¬£400m a year is set to be pruned in the autumn spending review as ministers seek to rein back spending at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Officials have also proposed earmarking some of the money Decc gives to the International Climate Fund — amounting to ¬£335m in 2015. Meanwhile, Decc is playing down a rumour that it could be merged into another ministry, the business department, for example, to cut costs. “I’d strongly, strongly steer you away from that,” said one insider. –Jim Pickard and Pilita Clark, Financial Times, 3 September 2015

More than one million solar energy projects and 25,000 wind turbines are obviously not enough: Despite Germany’s green energy revolution, the federal government’s climate targets cannot be achieved. This is the result of the most recent update of the so-called Energiewende-Index by consulting firm McKinsey. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 is “unrealistic”, says the report. Any improvement is not in sight either, the authors conclude: “The prospects for a turnaround by 2020 are permanently bad.” –Daniel Wetzel, Die Welt, 3 September 2015

The Dutch government said Tuesday it plans to appeal against a court decision which ordered it to slash emissions, arguing the verdict could set a precedent for courts to interfere with government policy. In a June 24 ruling, a court in The Hague ordered the government to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020, saying that the more modest 17 percent cuts that it was expected to achieve by that year were not enough to combat global warming. Wilma Mansveld, the Dutch environment minister, sent a letter to the Dutch parliament announcing the cabinet would appeal against the ruling, arguing that the verdict constrains the state’s ability to make decisions by balancing competing interests. –Kalina Oroschakov, Politico, 1 September 2015

Diplomats tasked with forging a climate rescue pact expressed frustration Wednesday over the lagging progress, with only seven negotiating days left until a Paris conference which must seal the deal. “I think we are all equally frustrated at the pace of the negotiations currently,” Amjad Abdulla of the Maldives, who speaks for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), told AFP. Instead of rolling up sleeves and reworking the text, still over 80 pages long and littered with contradictory proposals, the Bonn session had seen “conceptual discussions, going around in circles,” he said. AFP, 2 September 2015

Frustrated by slow progress in global climate talks, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon plans to invite around 40 world leaders including President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to a closed- door meeting next month. Major players including India, Indonesia and Brazil still haven’t submitted their climate plans, and the draft text for the Paris agreement remains an 88-page grab bag of conflicting options that negotiators still must sort out. At a news conference in Paris last week, Ban urged them to pick up the pace. “We have only less than a hundred days for final negotiations,” Ban said, complaining that diplomats were still working on a “business-as-usual” schedule. “They have been repeating what they have been doing during the last 20 years. We don’t have time to waste.” –Ewa Krukowska and Alex Nussbaum, Bloomberg, 1 September 2015

In Why Are We Waiting? (a follow-up to his well known Review of 2006), Nicholas Stern assembles scientific, moral and economic arguments that rapid and radical reductions of greenhouse gas emissions are needed to limit global warming to 2¬∞C above pre-industrial temperatures, and wonders why progress is so slow. Stern’s book is not reliable on either science or policy. In Chapter 4 Stern tells us that current economic models of climate impacts are not alarming enough. But in the end, the book’s main weakness is its failure to answer the question ‘Why Are We Waiting?‘ –Ruth Dixon, My Garden Pond blog, 1 September 2015