54435005 2211389085584958 7629647524579508224 oWe at Revolutionære Socialister have long been arguing that the politicians, despite their green rhetoric, are not doing anything radical to lower the carbon emissions due to the capitalist profit motive preventing exactly this. But the new climate law seems to change this - at least if you chose to believe SF, Enhedslisten and a number of NGOs. Here, we take a critical look at the climate law to see if there really is reason for optimism. 

»This is Danish history. The climate law makes Denmark one of the most climate-ambitious countries in the world, and it can rightly be called our party’s biggest political victory« (Mai Villadsen, climate spokeswoman for Enhedslisten)
»This moment will forever be defining for our time.« (Carl Valentin, climate spokesman for SF)

The positive testimonials about the December deal which is Denmark’s second climate law (the first was passed in 2014) are from representatives from Enhedslisten and SF. It all sounds overwhelmingly good. But does it hold water?

‘Climate neutrality’ by 2050

Let us start with the most cheerful headlines. With the climate law, the parties supporting the new agreement have set a goal for Denmark to be climate neutral in 2050. That all sounds nice but ‘climate neutral’ is not the same as fossil free. A country can burn enormous amounts of fossil fuels and still be climate neutral if it compensates for the emission in one way or another in the CO2 balance sheets. By cancelling CO2 quotas or by installing machines (that demand high energy) that can capture and store CO2 in the same way as nuclear waste, isolated from the surrounding environment. Climate neutral is a green way of saying that we don’t have to change energy, industry and infrastructure radically. Despite the fact that existing renewable energy technology could make Denmark free form the use of fossil fuels. As several researchers have pointed out, the deal emphasizes »that we still don’t know the solution to reach the goal [of the 70%]«. That Denmark is to be ‘climate neutral’, but not fossil fuel free, in 2050 therefore ties neatly together with the government’s actions, where they with one hand have set goals of a 70% reduction in emissions by 2030 and later climate neutrality, while it with the other hand invests in fossil fuel infrastructure and oil- and gas production in the North Sea, until at least 2052.

The calculation method

But there are more issues with the goals than just the choice of words. The famous 16 year old swede, Greta Thunberg, responded to the news of the “historic” of the 70% intermediate goal by 2030 in a more cool manner than SF and Enhedslisten. She dryly noted that this and similar “ambitious” goals from e.g. the UK are actually counterproductive. Why? Because they’re detached from reality. The goals are calculated after the rules of the UN Kyoto protocol which doesn’t consider emissions from import/export, aerial transport and very importantly in Denmark's case, offshore and shipping, a sector that’s responsible for half the greenhouse gas emissions in Denmark. This last factor alone means that the climate law is at best “half” a law.

Similarly, the omission of import means that the door is left open to the same kinds of creative accounting as we’ve seen in the UK. They’ve had a climate law for 10 years and in 2019 the British government could announce, in connection with the fact that the conservative government also declared the goal of being climate neutral in 2050, that the UK emissions are now 42% lower than 1990-levels, and thereby at the same level as 1890! It sounds impressive. But the at first sight impressive result covers the massive industrialization Thatcher started in order to destroy the british labor movement. The phasing out of british industry doesn’t mean that the UK no longer needs industrial products. The production has simply been moved. In this way the UK has ‘exported’ its CO2 emissions that result from production to especially China. 
The UK is actually the country in the G7 that in terms of the import of goods imports the most CO2 emissions per capita. From 1992 to 2007 alone, numbers from the Office for National Statistics show that the net worth in imports of CO2 emissions per capita have increased from 1,7 tons to 5,1 tons. This increase cancels out almost all the domestic progress of moving away from fossil fuels. If this is considered in the calculations, the UK CO2 emission is only 10% instead of 42% under what it was in 1990.

The new Danish climate law’s methods of calculation are like the British and can thus in no way show us a true picture of Denmark’s real emission of greenhouse gases. 

The parties behind the climate law; Socialdemokratiet, Socialistisk Folkeparti, Enhedslisten, Alternativet, Venstre, Konservative and Dansk Folkeparti know this. But apparently they act according to the famous words of Churchill: »The only statistics you can trust are the ones you have falsified yourself«

What does the climate law do?

That does it for the “ambitious” goals. But what can the climate law even do? The climate law doesn’t show any ways to achieve a reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases. It sets a frame for how a government must report on the development towards the goals of 70% reduction of greenhouse gases (compared to 1990) by the year 2030, climate neutrality by 2050 (with the abovementioned reservations) and a change in the structure and work of the Climate Council. No more, no less. The climate law does not impose any concrete action from the government other than to regularly present goals, “indicative intermediate aims” and so on. In and of itself the law leads to no action.

The Climate Council

The Climate Council is being strengthened and that is good, goes the tale. The council is getting more and more members and a larger pile of money. But The Climate Council is, like all public institutions, not an organ raised above class society. Its members are made up of bourgeois economists that are deeply rooted in the establishment and can’t exactly be considered radical advocates of green transition. With the deal of the climate law, the council will even be supplemented by a “dialog forum” with trade organizations and think tanks that are going to confer with The Climate Council and talk about the recommendations and publications by The Climate Council. This is an effective way to tangle The Climate Council even tighter together with business interests and is something that should only further the illusions in the council’s so-called independence.

Plan of action

While the climate law makes no concrete difference, it is through the climate plan of action, that is to be passed every 5 years (first time in 2020), that concrete action is to be set in motion to reach the goals. For this purpose the government has made 13 climate partnerships with the heads of Danish business such as Mærsk, Aalborg Portland and SAS. They are supposed to contribute to the government's climate plan of action and thus the concrete steps towards the government’s 5-year action plan. Like Dansk Erhverv (the Danish Chamber of Commerce) wrote: »We’ve long encouraged the government to look for climate partnerships in business to make sure the political goal is rooted in reality«. Danish business doesn’t need to worry about the government’s green stunt costing them profits. On the contrary, the government lets them take the driver’s seat. A sure recipe for the working class paying for any concrete action that will be implemented. 

Quotas and hocus pocus

For years the cancelation of quotas have been a comfortable way to pay oneself out of reducing CO2 emissions. That is why many were positively surprised when the political spokeswoman for Enhedslisten, Pernille Skipper, tweeted after the deal was made: 

»The climate law contains binding goals of 70% by 2023. Legally valid intermediate goals and a real ban on the use of quota cancelation and other hocus pocus. Denmark needs to reduce. So good«.

But in the 5th paragraph of the deal it says, black on white: 

»The parties to the deal agree that if it, in the last years leading up to 2030, it turns out that the 70 pct. goal is unattainable under consideration of the principles for the climate effort stated in the climate law, then the parties of the deal must together with the aim of discussing if agreement can be reached to use flexible mechanisms and other means. This happens in the recognition that the 70 pct. goal is very ambitious and that we do not yet know the solutions to make it all the way, and that the parties to the deal do not wish to be forced to make decisions that can have unintended consequences for the Danish society.« 

“Flexible mechanisms and other means” are codewords that mean the cancelation of quotas. In other words: not only are quota cancellations as a tool not subject to a “real ban”, they’re directly written as an option to avoid the ‘binding’ 2030 goal. The tradition of the Danish parliament in terms of breach of agreement may be that all parties to the agreement have to agree. But it is what Marx would have called parliamentary cretinism to believe that Enhedslisten now have the right of veto against the “flexible mechanisms and other means” in the future - measures the text itself is open to. There is a reason Venstre, Konservative and DF are in the agreement and have made sure to add this particular option - because they want to be able to use it.

Striking miscalculation

Having read the agreement of the climate law, there is no doubt in our minds. The 16 year old swede has understood much more than both SF, Enhedslisten and the many happy NGOs that welcome the law. The latter have called the deal a victory for the climate movement that raised the demand for a climate law. But where did that demand actually come from? The young people themselves? Not exactly. The youth went on the street demanding radical green transition NOW - in reality a revolutionary demand that stood in direct opposition to the profit motive of capitalism. They did not go on the streets, only to reach the passing of technocratic piece of paper that means nothing in reality. The demand “climate law now” was planted in the climate movement unofficially and without being passed democratically by NGOs that will do anything to keep the movement within the framework of the system. It was only possible because NONE of the so-called socialist parties argued the case for a socialist alternative but instead bent over backwards to avoid “forcing” their politics on the youth. The NGOs did not have the same tact and they are the winners today. 

The legal system that the social democratic government is creating now is not going to solve the climate issues. It is, however, an excellent tool for distraction and manipulation. SF, Enhedslisten and Alternativet play a decisive role in this context. If they, instead of cheerful support, had critically revealed the government, the bourgeois opposition and Danish business’ attempt at manipulating the danish people into believing that the climate crisis has now been solved in Denmark, then the whole maneuver would have fallen flat. But they failed. They have gone past the point of no return and have accepted the responsibility for the further development. A development we’re sure won’t leave a favorable impression of the parties in question.

If we’re going to make a difference in green transition we need to look at energy, production and infrastructure. Areas that are under private ownership and are managed to produce a profit and not in the interest of wider society. Real green transition is not possible without control. And you can’t control what you do not own. The Danish climate law and the parties’ green hope is simply an expression of the fundamental illusion inherent to reformism: that the market and its hunt for profit - capitalism - can be tamed and regulated until it loses its power and instead becomes humane and green. Until it is no longer capitalism. So no, the climate law won’t fix anything. Quite the contrary. But maybe Carl Valentin from SF will still be right when he writes that »this moment will forever be defining for our time«. The praise of the climate law says a lot about the state of the left wing today.

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