Denmark blamed for dropping EU climate ambitions

The EU’s draft budget contains no reference to a 20 percent target for climate spending despite the high climate ambitions of the recent Danish EU presidency

Denmark is being accused of failing to live up to its ambitions to promote investment in climate change after the first drafts of the new seven-year EU budget contained no specific targets for climate investment.

The accusations arrive as a result of Denmark’s stated ambition during their six-month EU presidency in the first half of this year to promote Investment in green technology as a solution to tackling climate change and stimulate economic growth in Europe.

“This growth needs to be green and sustainable,” the minister for European affairs, Nicolai Wammen (Socialdemokraterne), said at the time. “The presidency therefore wishes to put an emphasis on the further greening of European economies and promoting green growth.”

Despite these high ambitions, however, the new seven-year EU budget that is due to start in 2014 is absent of any specific targets for climate investment despite recommendations this March from the EU climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard.

“[The commission’s] proposal suggests boosting the share of climate-related spending to at least 20 percent of the total EU budget with the contribution from all relevant policies,” Hedegaard said in March. “This 20 percent will be achieved thanks to directly climate-related investments, but also those actions whose link with climate action is only indirect, such as railways or research in green technologies.”

According to Keti Medarova-Bergstrom, from the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEA), the absence of a clear target in the very first budget proposal presented by Denmark in May, means that Denmark failed to live up to its ambitions.

“If the Danish presidency had wanted to connect its climate and budgetary ambitions, they could have added the 20 percent target to the [negotiations],” Medarova-Bergstrom told Information newspaper. “But they didn’t.”

The idea behind the 20 percent climate target was to prioritise pro-climate initiatives within all areas of the budget, for example with agriculture and regional development funds that together make up over 80 percent of the total EU budget.

EU members are instead more focussed on reducing the 2014-2020 EU budget, which the European Commission wants to increase by €146 billion to €1.025 trillion. The British conservative government is fighting a battle with its euro-sceptic wing over whether to simply freeze the budget or demand it be cut, while the Danish PM, Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne) has threatened to veto the budget unless Denmark is offered a one billion kroner discount.

Hedegaard fears that investments in renewable energy and the transition to 'green energy' will be the cost of this push for cuts to the EU budget. 

"I really hope that the the countries that are normally forward-thinking aren't so busy trying to secure discounts and having the budget cut that they abandon Europe's efforts to switch over to 'green energy'," Hedegaard told Information.

The first budget proposal containing concrete figures was presented by current EU president Cyprus on Tuesday. It was €50 million less than the European Commission’s target and also did not include the commission’s 20 percent climate target.

The European Commission immediately rejected it, arguing that Cyprus’s budget proposal did not live up to ambitions for investment in growth and jobs.

Despite the disappointment that there were no direct climate targets in the budget, recent reports suggest that the EU is well on its way to fulfilling its emissions targets for 2020 that were set by the Kyoto Protocol.