Danish Premier Says Climate Outweighs Any Russia, China Tensions

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said international efforts to reduce carbon emissions must move forward, regardless of geopolitical tensions or disagreements in other areas.

“If you try to put all sorts of other agendas on the same table, then I don’t think we’ll achieve the things we need to achieve globally,” Frederiksen said in an interview Wednesday when asked about negotiating with Russia or China. “We can easily, and I think that’s also the basis of the Paris Agreement, have disagreements in all kinds of areas and then you can have an agreement on climate, where you work together to reduce carbon emissions.”

Frederiksen spoke on the eve of U.S. President Joe Biden’s climate summit, which begins on Earth Day. To her point, President Vladimir Putin spoke of the need to modernize his country to reduce carbon emissions in his annual address, while at least 40,000 Russian soldiers moved toward Ukraine’s border.

Danish Premier Says Climate Outweighs Any Russia, China Tensions

The U.S., China, Russia and the European Union have all signaled higher climate ambitions in the past week. On Wednesday morning, the EU agreed on a new set of criteria for green investments and to a legally binding climate emission reduction target of 55% for 2030. In his speech on Wednesday, Putin said Russia should have a lower cumulative volume of net emissions than the EU over the next three decades, without detailing how to achieve the goal.

Denmark was invited to Biden’s climate event to share its view on green solutions, the transition away from fossil dependence and the social effects of such a shift.

“If the consequence of high climate ambitions is unemployment, social inequality and division among the population, we lose as much as we gain,” Frederiksen said. “We must insist that both things must be possible and on solving the task in a balanced and sustainable way, not only for the environment and climate but also in relation to social cohesion.”

Denmark has made several milestone decisions in recent months to get closer to achieving its ambitious target to reduce carbon emissions by 70% no later than 2030 compared with 1990-levels. The country decided to end its oil production in the North Sea in 2050, and announced the construction of a 120,000 square-meter (30 acre) artificial island off its coast to support the future expansion of its offshore wind farms.

The transition from fossil to green energy has been going on for more than 50 years in Denmark, which started to invest heavily in windmills in the 1970s. Frederiksen underlined the importance of focusing on job creation, when some industries have to make way for others. She highlighted the city of Esbjerg on the country’s Western coast, where most workers used to be employed in the oil industry. Today, most jobs are in offshore wind.

“It’s crucial to explicitly include job creation as a part of the foundation for a country’s climate policies,” Frederiksen said. “The task is to show that ordinary people can have their living conditions improved both because of the climate and environmental benefits, but also in their work and everyday lives.”

Tensions may still cloud talks at the climate summit. The U.S. has imposed fresh sanctions against Russia over the alleged interference in last year’s U.S. election. And Russia’s troop movements are the most recent escalation of its war with Ukraine.

The U.S. has also imposed sanctions on European companies involved in building the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline that runs 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) from Russia across the Baltic Sea to Germany. Denmark is against the natural gas link because it runs through its economic zone and increases the EU’s dependency on Russian energy.

“It’s well known that the Danish government is against it,” Frederiksen said, adding that the issue should remain separate from any discussions on reducing pollution.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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