By Anders Lorenzen
Denmark has just experienced its first national ‘climate change’ election, in which voters very much favoured parties taking a proactive stance on the climate crisis, and parties with a climate sceptic agenda, such as the Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti) and the Liberal Alliance Party (Liberal Alliance), experienced crushing defeats.
Mette Frederiksen, the leader of the Social Democracy Party (Socialdemokratiet), who is now expected to become Denmark’s next prime minister, noted in her victory speech that this was ‘Denmark’s first climate election’ and that she had heard the calls for action on climate change. Even Denmark’s Liberal Party’s (Venstre) outgoing Prime Minister, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, earmarked climate as one of the top issues voters had been concerned about, alongside other issues like the economy, welfare and immigration.
Denmark is a coalition politics country and divided up into the ‘red block’ centre-left and left-wing parties, and ‘blue block’ centre-right and right-wing parties. Even though Rasmussen’s ‘blue’ Venstre party increased their vote share and seats in the election, as other ‘blue’ parties lost seats due to the collapse of various ‘populist’ groupings, he had to concede defeat overall. This shift happened in part to concerns about climate change, with three parties on the left all vying to be the country’s ‘greenest’ party.
Both The Danish Social Liberal Party (Radikale Venstre) and the Socialist People’s Party (Socialistisk Folkeparti) almost doubled their seats, whilst the far-left Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) and The Alternative (Alternativet) part lost ground. Apart from The Danish Social Liberal Party, these parties all identified the climate crisis as the number one election issue, and even The Danish Social Liberal Party party had climate amongst its top priorities. One of the most widely debated issues leading up to the election is that of a new and ambitious climate law stressing a commitment to preventing a temperature increase of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
While people outside Denmark might see the Scandinavian country as a leader in tackling climate change, many Danes have become increasingly frustrated with the lack of political ambition on this issue. Last year Denmark’s CO2 emissions rose, pointing to the fact that it’s ‘green transition’ might be stalling.
Denmark also has one of the highest rates of meat consumption per capita in the world; The Alternative, in particular, has argued that for Denmark to truly be a climate leader that issue has to be tackled. It is a contentious issue that Rasmussen’s government has ignored and Frederiksen’s new government might too.
Amongst people in Denmark passionate about action on climate change there was delight at the election result and faith that parties would come together to push hard on more ambitious climate policies. With opposition having been so severely weakened, progress is definitely more possible than before, now it just remains to be seen whether there’s agreement on how progress is best achieved.