Denmark’s climate minister is pretty sure that the deal to close the country’s oil industry by 2050, announced Friday morning, will mark the greatest moment of his career.
“I think this will probably be the biggest decision I’m a part of in my life,” Dan Jørgensen told the Guardian hours after the announcement.
Clearly, this was not an easy decision. We are the largest oil producer in the EU. Since the 1970s, we have largely financed our welfare state with oil money. So to say ‘stop’ and pay the costs for it is a big deal for us. “
Calling it the “biggest decision” is nonetheless important to the man who has been the face of what many claim to be the world’s most ambitious climate target for the past year, Denmark’s plan to cut emissions by 70%. by 2030.
In recent months, Jørgensen and the Prime Minister of Denmark have been criticized for relying too heavily on technical solutions, such as two “energy islands” that will collectively generate 5GW of wind power, and lingering issues like green tax reform.
Jørgensen says he hopes Friday’s announcement will show that his administration’s green promises are genuine: “I think there is an English phrase ‘stop your money where your mouth is’, and that’s basically what we’re trying to do “.
He said the center-right opposition Liberal Party also deserved credit for supporting the cancellation of the current exploration licensing round, something it has long opposed.
“This is an example of what has changed in Danish politics, that we now really have broad support for the green transformation,” he says. “Political parties that had never thought about it ten years ago are now on board.”
The deal is binding on all future governments.
“That’s important, of course, because if we then tell the world that we’re going to do this, they can count on it, but also for the industry, because it gives them some stability and security,” Jørgensen emphasizes.
“It is clear that the industry is not happy with the closing date. They are not happy that we canceled the tenders. But then again, I think they’ll be happy to know exactly what conditions they have. Because if we say 2050, it also means that we will not change that in 2045 or 2040. “
Under the agreement, oil companies with existing licenses will be able to continue to search for oil and gas in the Danish North Sea in the Danish North Sea.
“If we were to say to companies that already had the permissions, ‘we’re taking them away from you,’ it’s the price tag that no government could bear,” he said.
“The costs would be so high that I doubt whether we would be considered a frontrunner. People just shook their heads and thought we were stupid. “
Jørgensen claims his government’s existing actions have already taken Denmark a long way. “We have to reduce 20 megatons between now and 2030, and we already have that with five. We have 10 years to do it, and in a year and a half we’ve done a quarter of that. ”
Since his appointment last year, Jørgensen has also devoted a great deal of his time to international outreach. Unfortunately, he says, some of the countries that seemed to follow Denmark’s lead have thrown their plans off course because of the coronavirus crisis.
“The pandemic has unfortunately halted the good developments in some countries … I hope this does not mean that too many countries forget that we have another extreme and protracted crisis, namely the climate crisis.”
Crucially, he says, the world does not repeat the mistakes made after the financial crisis in 2008 and does not turn stimulus spending into ‘old-fashioned technologies’.
Jørgensen says he is not concerned that US President-elect Joe Biden will be insufficiently radical.
“I am confident that the Biden administration will make huge strides in the US transformation of the green agenda,” he said. “I am just extremely happy to see such progressive forces taking power, and I think all the signs we have had from the president-elect and his team point in the right direction.”
The four years of climate decline under Donald Trump, he said, should not be seen as fatal for efforts to keep global warming at acceptable levels.
“In many of the individual cities and states there has been some progress that can be built on, so I do not subscribe to the view that there has been irreversible damage,” he said. “Now when the US comes back in I would say it could give us new momentum.”
With Friday’s announcement, Denmark has gained the moral strength to rise above its weight. “In most countries politicians will often say, ‘This is a historic decision’. Sometimes it is true, other times it is not. With this one we don’t even have to say it ourselves. “