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Denmark enlists ten more in push for 'ambitious' climate target

Danish climate and energy minister Lars Aagaard (right) meets newly appointed EU climate commissioner Wopke Hoekstra at an EU Council summit in October 2023.
Danish climate and energy minister Lars Aagaard (right) meets newly appointed EU climate commissioner Wopke Hoekstra at an EU Council summit in October 2023. Copyright FRANCOIS LENOIR / © European Union
Copyright FRANCOIS LENOIR / © European Union
By Robert Hodgson
Published on Updated
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Denmark, the only EU country so far to explicitly back a 2040 target of cutting the bloc's net greenhouse gas emissions to 90% below 1990 levels, has persuaded Germany, France and eight others to back a call for an "ambitious" target in a joint statement that points towards a similar figure.

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Heavyweights Germany, France and Spain are among ten member states that have joined Denmark in calling for a 2040 emissions reduction target in line with the advice of EU scientists who say net greenhouse gas output must be slashed to no more than a tenth of 1990 levels.

Denmark is the only country so far to have explicitly endorsed a 90% net reduction target, which equates to a seven-fold reduction from current levels over the next sixteen years. Climate minister Lars Aagaard made the announcement in early December during the COP28 climate conference in Dubai.

The joint statement, circulated by Denmark on Thursday, notes that EU heads of government welcomed at a mid-December summit the freshly struck global agreement to accelerate a shift towards net-zero emissions “in line with the best available science” in order to cap global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

“The [EU] target should be in line with the long-term temperature goal of 1.5 °C and take into account the principles in the European Climate Law, such as best available science, cost-effectiveness, a fair and just transition and the costs of inaction, as well as the advice of the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change,” the statement runs.

The document – also signed by ministers from Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Portugal – does not specify a preferred 2040 target, but the independent advisory board concluded last summer that the EU must adopt a 2040 target of 90-95% if it is to stand a fair chance of meeting its commitment to reach net-zero a decade later.

The EU executive plans to publish on 6 February a communication setting out its recommendation for a 2040 target. Newly appointed climate commissioner Wopke Hoekstra has already committed to “defend” the target of at least 90% recommended by the scientific panel.

Climate minister Aagaard said today (26 January) that an ambitious target was necessary also to ensure Europe’s “energy independence and future competitiveness”. The office of the Danish permanent representation in Brussels said on social media the Scandinavian country had “brought together a broad alliance of European countries from north to south, east and west” in favour of high ambition.

Climate campaigners gave a mixed reaction to the joint statement, however. Sven Harmeling of Climate Action Network Europe told Euronews the campaign alliance welcomed the fact that several “influential member states” had called for an ambitious target, but noted the commission has been modelling higher targets as is finalises an impact assessment also due out next week.

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