Denmark set to approve new climate change law

Denmark to pass climate change bill into law, putting its 2020 ambition at twice the EU

Pic: JamesZ/Flickr

Pic: JamesZ/Flickr

By Sophie Yeo in Bonn

Denmark is set to pass its climate change bill into law on Wednesday, binding it to reducing its emissions 40% by 2020.

The bill, which was announced in February, will receive its third and final hearing in the Danish Parliament on 11 June. If passed, it will need to receive the Royal Assent before taking effect.

With wide support from a cross-section of the political parties which make up Denmark’s coalition government, the bill is expected to pass easily, giving a boost to the country’s already ambitious policies on tackling climate change.

Denmark’s climate minister, Rasmus Helveg Petersen, told RTCC that the bill was the “right and proper course” for the country as it seeks to create a fossil free energy sector by 2050.

The 40% reduction target intended by Denmark’s Climate Change Act is double the EU’s own target. It will also set up a climate change council ensuring the target is met “on a scientific basis and in a cost effective way,” said Petersen, as well as setting targets every five years.

Petersen spoke to RTCC on the sidelines of climate negotiations taking place this week in Bonn, where one of the major discussions has been how to raise ambition prior to 2020, when the UN’s new climate deal is scheduled to take effect.

Despite an announcement from the EU that the 28-state bloc was set to overachieve its 2020 target by 4.5%, no countries present at the discussions announced an increase on current goals.

Ministers will next tackle the issue of pre-2020 ambition at the UN’s upcoming conference in Lima in December, with a potential opportunity for interim announcements at a summit that Ban Ki-moon will host in New York in December.

Petersen confirmed to RTCC that Denmark’s Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, would attend the summit.


A growing number of countries are passing legislation as a means of tackling climate change. The UK was the first country to pass a Climate Change Act in 2008, while other countries have passed sector-specific laws to tackle emissions.

Last week, Finland became the latest country to announce a new Climate Change Act, which will inscribe a 2050 emissions reduction target of 80% into law.

Such legislation is key because it means that consecutive governments are legally bound to a long term target, as well as giving confidence to the private sector, says Darragh Conway, a climate law specialist at consultants Climate Focus.

“If countries want to set a target for reducing emissions then it probably does help if that’s set in law, especially if that makes it binding for the government,” he said. “In that sense, the government is held to account, and that’s quite valuable.”

He added that a headline climate law could help streamline action across various sectors. “It’s about energy policy, industrial policy, economic policy, land and forestry policy, agriculture, so it can’t be addressed by an environmental ministry. It has to be addressed at a high level,” he said.

Around 400 legislators met this week in Mexico to discuss the role of climate laws. The three-day meeting concluded with a resolution by MPs from 80 countries to push for tougher climate legislation in their domestic parliaments.

A recent study by GLOBE International and CDKN found that there was a correlation between strong climate change legislation and high ambition at international climate talks.

Christiana Figueres, head of the UN’s climate body, said that legislation was key in carrying forward a “clean revolution”.

She said: “Domestic legislation is critical because it is the linchpin between action on the ground and the international agreement.”

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