Denmark sees resolution soon to EU rift on 2050 climate goal


COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – The new energy and climate minister of Denmark, a frontrunner in fighting climate change, said on Friday he was confident fellow EU countries would soon agree to go carbon-neutral by 2050 despite resistance in the east of the bloc.

Denmark’s Climate and Energy Minister Dan Jorgensen speaks during an interview in Copenhagen, Denmark August 16, 2019. REUTERS/Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen

A push by most European Union nations for the world’s biggest economic bloc to go carbon-neutral by 2050 was dropped to a footnote in June after fierce resistance from Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary who fear it would hurt economies like theirs dependent on nuclear power and coal.

“I think it will happen in the near future,” energy and climate minister Dan Jorgensen said, referring to an EU-wide commitment to achieving a balance between carbon emitted and removed from the atmosphere within the next three decades.

“I don’t hear Poland saying ‘no way’…The talks I’ve had with my Polish colleagues have been constructive,” Jorgensen said in an interview with Reuters.

“And then the next step will be to discuss a European 2030 target”.

Informal EU talks on a 2030 target had already begun, according to the Social Democratic minister who took over Denmark’s energy and climate ministry after a June 5 election.

“It is too far out in the future to only aim for a 2050 target.”

With greenhouse gas emissions currently on course to push average global temperatures more than three degrees higher by the end of this century, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is working to wrest bigger pledges from governments at a U.N. climate summit in New York in September.

He has among other things called on the European Union to aim for a 55% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, far greater than the EU’s current target of a 40% cut.

Denmark’s new Social Democratic government recently set one of the most ambitious climate targets in the world when it vowed to deliver a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

Jorgensen said that while the technology needed to reach reductions of 60-65% exists today, the remaining leap to carbon-neutral levels would be extremely challenging.

“We have set the target based on what science says, not on what we can agree on or have money for,” he said, adding that his government would now work with other parties in parliament on climate legislation to make the target legally binding.

“If you imagined that a huge meteor was on its way to hit earth in 10-15 years, but we didn’t have the technology to ward it off, then no one would (just) say: ‘Well, that’s a shame’.”

Last year, the U.N.-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that emissions must start falling next year at the latest to stand a chance of achieving the goal of holding the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius set by the 2016 Paris agreement on limiting global warming.

Denmark is known as the cradle of wind power and is home to the largest wind turbine maker, Vestas and the largest offshore wind farm developer Orsted.

Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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