Government’s green agenda gets failing marks

Officials not sure why over half of the country thinks they are letting the environment down

The government is not living up to the promises it made when it came into office in 2011 to “put green actions behind green words”, as PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne) put it. Over half of those responding to an Epinion poll conducted for Information newspaper and public broadcaster DR said that government has failed in its green efforts.

Martin Lidegaard (Radikale), the climate and energy minister, was dismayed by the results.

“I do not think that the criticism is justified,” Lidegaard told Information newspaper. "We have the world’s most ambitious targets for fighting climate change and are aiming to raise the share of renewable energy sources from 40 to 70 or 80 percent. That is a dramatic turnaround.”

Lidegaard said that the good news in the negative survey results was that the numbers showed that the public cares about the environment.

Minister: We're not pointing out our successes
Socialistisk Folkeparti head Annette Vilhelmsen, the children, social affairs and immigration minister, thinks that the government has simply done a bad job of blowing its own environmental horn.

"We have been working for the past two years to prepare and launch a green transformation of Denmark,” she told Information. “Many would like to see more, and I understand that, but we have already accomplished a lot.”

Vilhelmsen said that the ongoing economic crisis has taken up a lot of space in the government and the media, and that positive environmental news was being buried.

Lidegaard said it has been a tough job to balance the green agenda while keeping the country on track economically.

“Green development and economic development have to go hand in hand – that is real sustainability," he said.

Many green goals unrealised
Large parts of the government’s environmental agenda have failed to see the light of day, however.

Failures include the proposed congestion zone (betalingsring), urban green zones that are still unrealised, and a billion kroner growth plan that only includes a few hundred million kroner for green initiatives.

"It is true that there have been some proposals that did not materialise,” said Lidegaard.

Although the survey indicated that right-leaning voters were actually the most critical of the government’s environmental efforts, opposition leaders do not want to see more money spent on green efforts.

"We do not want to change the current course,” Venstre's climate and energy spokesperson, Lars Christian Lilleholt, told Information. “When you do these surveys, it is easy for people to say that they want more, but who picks up the tab?”