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Climate Plan, Coalition Tensions Put Denmark’s 70% Emissions Cut at Risk

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has thrown her country’s 2030 emissions reduction target of 70% into doubt, and may have jeopardized her governing coalition, with a climate plan that falls short of coalition partners’ expectations and steps away from past promises to tax pollution.

“On Friday, the leader of one of the parties the government relies on to stay in power threatened to withdraw support if the current climate proposal isn’t improved,” Bloomberg reports, citing local media. Social Liberals leader Morten Østergaard said he felt “cheated” by Frederiksen’s Social Democrats, describing the climate plan as a “declaration of war” against parties that supported the government based on its green platform.

In the plan released last week, the government “backtracked on earlier promises to use taxes as a key disincentive for polluters,” the news agency writes. “Instead, Frederiksen now says innovation and technology will drive emissions cuts, in an effort to appease low-income voters.” Some aspects of the plan, including a tax hike for some electric vehicles, also “appear to discourage climate-friendly behaviour.”

Peter Møllgaard, chair of the government-appointed Klimarådet (Danish Council on Climate Change), said it’s “uncertain” whether Denmark can achieve its 70% goal without financial incentives to reduce emissions.

When it released the plan last Tuesday, the government said the country could hit the target without scaling back its generous system of welfare benefits, Reuters reported. It estimated the shift to low-carbon technologies would cost DK 16 to 24 billion (US$2.5 to $3.7 billion) per year through 2030.

“Our ambitious climate goals are not without costs, but with a wise approach, the bill can be made smaller and managed so that we can afford both climate and welfare,” said Climate Minister Dan Jørgensen.

The plan also assumes that 9.0 to 16.5 million tonnes of emissions can be eliminated “by using new technologies such as carbon capture storage and ‘power-to-X’—converting surplus electricity, usually from renewable sources such as wind,” into “storable substances” or fuels like hydrogen or methane, Reuters added.