Something is rotten in the state of COP15
Published 14th October 2009 - 5 comments - 2373 views -
Success at the critical COP15 summit is to some degree dependent on the performance of the host nation. And let it be said up front: I am no great fan of the current Danish government. In fact, as a Dane I have followed their history as rulers with increasing bewilderment, shock and occasional disgust. But since the future of humankind is now partly dependent on them, I wish them the best of luck with the climate summit. And as the saying goes...
"All saints have a past. All sinners have a future."
The Danish government is heading for the future in hopes it will be bright. Past sins have been amazingly deftly hidden away or turned to advantages. And a blazingly clean angel in the incarnation of Connie Hedegaard put in charge of the climate ministry. Except a few less than praising stories have turned up lately. But before exhibiting the dirt on Connie let me just quickly vent the skeletons in the closet of the Danish government one by one.
The Dark Knight: Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Dethroned as minister of taxes and economy in 1992 after a scandal of "creative accounting" and lying to the parliament about it - only to make a comeback as Prime Minister nine years later! As such he slashed all government support of "green" initiatives and thoroughly cleaned administration of perceived leftist influence in what was more like a brutal disagreement-cide than a cute little witch hunt.
Bjørn Lomborg was abruptly promoted from statistics teacher to climatology expert and 3.7 billion Danish kroner cut from the budget. A Danish economy on capitalist steroids unhindered by sustainability considerations inflated itself - except of course certain sectors like the windmill industry. Yes, CO2-emissions went up.
Remember when the Bush administration lied to the people of USA to get support for an illegal attack on Iraq? Well, Fogh repeated and even further exaggerated all these lies in the Danish parliament. He has since firmly denied giving interviews on this issue. Suddenly he apologized for his previous climate change denialism stances and moved his way onwards to a position as Secretary General of NATO. Impressive, actually.
The Evil Spirits: Danish Peoples Party
More or less since their rise to power the liberals and conservatives have constituted a minority government. Without the support of the Danish Peoples Party they would crumble instantly. So far they have maintained this support by giving in to the simple yet disturbing demands from this extremely nationalist party - which is a mix of a large dose of anti-Islam sprinkled with day to day populist mix.
An account of their populist-xenophobic - and I dare say it: racist, neo-fascist madness - is beyond the scope of this article. But it could spell trouble that they are the last anti-science party standing.
In fact, they recently appealed to the government to down prioritize COP15! The rationale something blurry along the lines of "when diplomats arrive in limos nothing changes". Absurd except to their voters. However, even if you don't "believe" in the science of climatology, even if you don't care about the future, even if you don't like the government... COP15 is a chance to promote Denmark served on a silver platter. Anyone would understand that. Except Danish Peoples Party.
I suspect they will be gently silenced for the time being.
The replacement Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, graduated from the same high school I did - Helsinge Gymnasium north of Copenhagen - but 11 years earlier. In stead of studying plant biology and blogging for a ridiculously small audience he went on to law school and became head of the liberal party youth organization. Holding this position he helped collect about € 100.000 for some anti-Soviet Muslim mujahedins, travelled to Afghanistan in 1988 to hand the money over and were memorized posing with an AK-47. Such an activity would be illegal today due to recent anti-terrorism legislation.
A speeding ticket in 2003 aside and a suspicious connection to spending irregularities in local politics Lars Løkke Rasmussens biggest disadvantage probably is some people in his ministry has openly acknowledged he is completely inexperienced in international diplomacy. He's been put on a "crash course" before COP15 though.
The Angel: Connie Hedegaard
Not one of the brutal liberalists, Connie Hedegaard is a conservative of the more gentle type. And she is a popular and trusted face from her carreer as a journalist and TV hostess. She also appears constructive and a matter-of-fact type politician. Plus she is increasingly known abroad from her - apparently - quite extensive travel activity in the preparations for COP15. But...
Anders Fogh Rasmussens stubbornly insisted not a frog, not a water shed had been harmed during his reign. Perhaps not. But when the National Environmental Research Institute rated the condition of the Danish forests as 'poor' in 2007 a conflict ensued between institute and ministry. Connies people had the assessment method changed, the state of the forests changed to 'good' and the prediction of their futures changed from 'poor' to 'unknown'.
And last week - while I was travelling in Poland to see the Bialowieza Forest (UN World Heritage Site & Biosphere Reserve in Poland) - another case started developing. The chief climate negotiator resigned or was axed or something similar (see On the Road to Copenhagen: Part 3: Architect of COP15 leaves chief negotiator post for some info in English). The story in Danish media is this is about a power struggle between ministries and government officials. It is somewhat likely that Lars Løkke Rasmussens people are claiming some control of COP15 to down prioritize it - but this is speculation. One very recent development is Connie Hedegaard has been disqualified in the case - because one of her kids went to kindergarten with the kid of the axed official. Weird and still unfolding.
Connie still maintains a positive image; unburdened by scandals and outrageous stories like the rest of her government (believe me, the above was the short-short-short version!). And she is generally regarded as the steward of the green initiatives in a green nation. Actually, she just polished a couple of old projects from the previous government, namely the life achievement of the late Social Democratic environmental minister, Svend Auken.
"To change or not to change, that is the question."
Let us hope the Danish government is ready for quite a bit of change!
(This article was written off the top of my head supported with Wikipedia refreshments and a Danish site called forbryderalbum.dk which - until recently at least - chronicled the sins of the Danish government. The story about the state of the Danish forests was reported in "Miljøministeriet undergraver forskeres autoritet" at Videnskab.dk (in Danish) recently. There is plenty of dirt on other members of the government, believe me.)
About the author
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