Damning the Danes: Canada Not the Only Backslider in Poznan

Canada climate-change record is so frequently criticized at the UN climate conference in Poznan, Poland, that its tempting to think everyone else is doing the right thing in enacting good climate policy. But one “good example” frequently cited - Denmark - has, since 2001, taken a villainous turn on the climate file.

Denmark is famous for its windmills, and especially for its mid-80s policy promoting the use of alternative energy sources for the generation of electricity. Thanks to that policy, Denmark now generates nearly 20 per cent of its electricity from wind and the Danish wind industry, which employs 20,000 people, dominates the international market.

But since the election in 2001 of the right-of-centre Liberal-led coalition of Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark has been pulling back on its wind promotion and easing restrictions on coal-fired power plants, according to Tove Ryding of CARE International. The wind industry is now surviving on its own strength, while the government is actively pushing the door open to accommodate more dangerous climate-changing energy alternatives, Ryding says.

The other example of Denmark’s climate perfidy is its ongoing support of Rasmussen’s favourite climate “expert” - the pseudo-denier Bjorn Lomborg.

Lomborg, the self-styled “skeptical environmentalist,” is widely condemned for his disingenous argument that the world’s governments can safely ignored climate change mitigation, diverting any spending to poverty reduction in the alternative. In support of this argument, Prime Minister Rasmussen set up the Danish “Environmental Assessment Institute” which specializes in making environmental and economic cost/benefit analyses, and appointed Lomborg as executive director.

As he proved again with his newest book, Cool It, Lomborg is more than willing to cherry pick data in order to distract people from the danger of climate change - and the denier community is more than willing to cosy up to Lomborg for its own purposes. As Denmark’s reputation for responsible climate policy slips further over the edge, Prime Minister Rasmussen will have to take responsibility for Lomberg’s shenanigans, as well. 

Richard Littlemore is in Poznan reporting for DeSmoglog. He is the first blogger to ever be given full media credentials by the United Nations.


Denmark, per capita, emits one half as much CO2 as Canada.  Denmark attempted to live up to its signature on Kyoto, Canada repudiated its signature.  Denmark committed to a more stringent target than Canada in the first place.  Danish greenhouse gas emissions are declining, Canada’s are increasing.  These figures are a result of political commitment aimed at achieving results sustained over many years.

That’s a preposterous case you make for Danish villainy.  The Prime Minister chums around with the notorious Bjorn Lomborg and Tove Ryding points out that some restrictions on coal have been eased recently, while wind power is expected to stand on its own feet. 

Meanwhile in your own country Prime Minister Harper is a climate Neanderthal who may not even believe climate change is caused by human activity. Harper’s first move when he found out Obama was elected was to plead with the Americans not to interfere with tar sand oil extraction.

What regulations were eased on the Danish coal industry?  Danish coal use has declined since 1990 by 34%.   Canada’s coal use has increased by at least 25%.  Given DeSmogBlog’s bias against coal, i.e. the declaration that carbon capture technology doesn’t exist when the IPCC states that it does, anything you say about coal is suspect.   This is how it goes when you decide to substitute lies for facts while you trumpet to the skies that your mission is to do the opposite.  What is wrong with the Danes letting their wind industry stand on its own feet?  Do you expect wind power to receive subsidies forever?

If I was a Canadian wandering around Poznan I’d be ashamed to show my face if I had just described anything about Danish climate policy as villainous.  What right do you as a Canadian have to say anything to anyone about their villainous government?  Now that Australia has changed its government and Obama is about to take over in the US, there isn’t anyone worse than Harper in the developed world.  Canada is a pariah state on climate, and the rest of the world is increasingly becoming very aware.

… absolutely.

And yes, it is humiliating having to use a Canadian passport to get into this event.

I had no intention of criticizing Denmark’s excellent record overall. I was merely posting the concerns of a Danish national who is dismayed to see her country relighting coal fires and easing a way from a wind policy that made it a world leader.

That said, I apologize unreservedly for any offence taken by Danes who are justifiably proud of their country’s performance on this file. Would that Canada had done half as well.

I saw a picture of Lomborg taken just after a protestor had thrown a pie in his face.  It brightened up my entire day.  I wouldn’t do such a thing myself, most likely, but he did look like he deserved it.  The Prime Minister he’s chummy with, apparently, or at least his party, signed off in the past on Danish efforts to continue on showing leadership to the world on climate. Maybe he’s a Harper type, only if he wants to lead the Danes, he’s got to maintain a leadership position on climate although it sounds like he’s chipping away at it when he can.  I think we should reserve the word villain, attached to climate, strictly for us Canadians.  Sorry about my harsh response to your original post.  I was a bit astonished to hear a Canadian say bad things about Denmark on climate and set my keyboard to “blast”.

When Canada once led the world, as Elizabeth May wrote about a while back when she published describing how Canada was viewed in the late 1980s, I was an activist something like that Dane you talked to. 

I attended the Changing Atmosphere conference in Toronto as a Canadian evironmentalist concerned about ozone depletion.  Astonished international delegates who thought very highly of Canada heard my bitter criticism of my own government as I would lay it out, the nonaction here, there, and everywhere, etc.  Canada led on action on acid rain, then led on talk talk talk on ozone and climate, then led nowhere right to where we are now.  So I don’t blame the Dane, and your reaction sounds fine.  I’m sure whatever she told you about horrible Danish Prime Ministers is true.  People who listened to me back in 1988 might have thought Canada was led by neanderthals, when types like Elizabeth look back on the period with some warm feelings.  It depended what issue you were working on, where you were, and how you viewed people talking about action as opposed to taking it.  Back then, the polls briefly showed “the environment” as top of mind for Canadians, when it came time to choose who to vote for, and instantly, politics changed, then it slipped out of sight in the polls, and politics duly responded.  I don’t support the theory that some old hands in the environment movement have that Mulroney was some kind of great environment guy.  He was serving up a bit of environment after reading the polls.