Cablegate: (Sbu) Denmark: Government Weathers Cop-15 Aftermath

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E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A) 09 STATE 132367

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1. (SBU) Summary: Unrealistic public expectations for the outcome
of COP-15 and initial confusion over how to interpret the Copenhagen
Accord led to intense media and opposition questioning of Denmark's
role as host of the conference, in particular focused on PM Lars
Loekke Rasmussen's performance as President of the COP. In
response, the Government has defended the Copenhagen Accord as the
best outcome possible at COP-15 and a positive step forward toward a
legally binding agreement, and public interest appears to be
shifting to other issues.

2. (SBU) While it remains publicly committed to pursue a legally
binding accord under its COP presidency (which ends in December when
Mexico assumes that role at the next COP in Cancun), we note signs
that the Government seeks to play a less exposed role in
international negotiations this year, preferring to work privately
with the UN, Mexico, and the EU in search of a way forward. Denmark
will continue to be a useful partner on climate, especially on
Copenhagen Accord implementation, and we will continue to work
closely with the Government and others in pursuit of shared
interests. End Summary.

3. (SBU) The Danish Government (like the USG) admits that the
Copenhagen Accord did not fulfil all its hopes for COP-15, but
defends the Accord as an important outcome of the COP-15 climate
conference. Critics, including the parliamentary opposition, have
criticized the Accord for its non-binding nature and criticized PM
Lars Loekke Rasmussen for a weak performance as President of the
15th Conference of Parties (COP-15) climate conference held in
Copenhagen December 7-18, 2009 (for a complete description of the
COP-15 endgame and results, see Ref A).

4. (SBU) National media have fully aired opinions about the
handling and results of this historic event for Denmark, to the
point where public interest is beginning to reach saturation levels.
Most awkward for the Government has been a focus on the PM's
performance during COP-15. Danish conservative daily 'Berlingske
Tidende' cites an unnamed Foreign Ministry source who reportedly
witnessed an angry Prime Minister dressing down his leading climate
advisor, Bo Lidegaard, in front of Danish delegates during COP15
after feeling himself humiliated by foreign diplomats when he
assumed the chair of the conference as it entered the crucial final
days. Press have also highlighted procedural errors made by
Rasmussen while in the chair, and the opposition has criticized the
PM for "throwing in the towel" by giving up the chair in the waning
hours of the conference after being thwarted by stubborn opposition
from the ALBA countries to COP approval of the Copenhagen Accord.
One anonymous analyst charged that the PM was unprepared to assume
leadership over this international event, and letting him do so was
equivalent to "throwing him to the sharks."

Defending the Accord

5. (SBU) In several public appearances since COP-15, PM Rasmussen
and new Climate Minister Lykke Friis have answered pointed questions
from the press and the opposition on the significance of the
Copenhagen Accord and the way ahead before Parliament. While freely
admitting the Accord was not ideal, they have defended it as the
best agreement possible at COP-15, and an important step forward
towards a binding international agreement to address climate change.

6. (SBU) In an appearance before Parliament on January 26, the PM
was faulted by the opposition for his inability to push through a
legally binding agreement. Social Democrat climate spokesperson
Mette Gjerskov criticized a "much too close" Danish alliance with
the U.S. in the lead-up to the COP, saying "it was not enough just
to get Obama to town and hope to then buy the votes of developing
nations." Gjerskov said the PM had chaired COP-15 "as though it was
a village hall discussion, not a gathering of world leaders," and
urged the government to admit its mistakes and assume greater
responsibility for the negotiating process in the lead-up to COP-16
in Mexico. Continuing, she declared that "it is now over a month
since delegates saw their COP15 chairman throw in the towel and walk
out of the conference and nobody has seen or heard from him since.
No meetings have been called, no strategy has been laid out.
Where's the leadership? Our Prime Minister seems to be suffering
from a climate coma."

7. (SBU) In response, PM Rasmussen defended the accord as the best
possible outcome and a reflection of "the art of the possible" and
"the reality of the situation." The PM said the Copenhagen Accord
was an important step forward towards a binding agreement that
remains the end goal of the Government. While acknowledging the

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opposition had a right to try to label the outcome of the COP a
'disaster,' the PM said that view displayed "a very modest
understanding of what was--and is--at stake in the international
climate debate." On forming alliances, the PM dismissed the
criticism and indicated that he sees a much broader alliance behind
the Copenhagen Accord. The accord, he said, was supported by
countries responsible for more than 80 percent of global

Friis to the Front--Still Ambitious

8. (SBU) Climate and Energy Minister Lykke Friis, who assumed her
ministerial duties when her predecessor, Connie Hedegaard, stepped
down just before COP-15 (see Ref B), told Parliament on January 26
that Denmark was committed to pursuing international collaboration
on climate change along all tracks (i.e. UN, Kyoto, Copenhagen

9. (SBU) To do so, she said, Denmark will specifically:
--Work with EU and other developed countries on delivering the
finance outlined in the accord;
--coordinate its efforts with the UN, Mexico, Germany (for the June
UNFCCC meeting in Bonn);
--keep working through diplomatic channels, via its embassy climate
attaches in strategic countries (adding a new one in Mexico City and
extending its current attache in South Africa, in anticipation of
South Africa's hosting of COP-17 in 2011);
--the Minister said she would attend the World Economic Forum in
Doha January 26-27, and would subsequently visit Delhi (Feb 5-6,
coupled with a visit to Beijing).
(Note: Friis' staff told REO on January 26 that she is also
considering whether and when to continue her predecessor's
"Greenland Dialogue" process.)

But Not Too Ambitious

10. (SBU) PM Rasmussen has flatly rejected calls from the
opposition and - intriguingly - from some within the governing
coalition (specifically from the Conservative Party of former
Climate Minister and EC Commissioner-designate Connie Hedegaard),
for more ambitious international leadership by Denmark on climate
issues in the wake of COP-15. On January 13 during another
appearance before Parliament, the PM was denounced by Social Liberal
Party leader Margrethe Vestager for "trying to lead from the back
seat." Instead, she said, "Denmark could do something on its own.
We should say: first we will go for 30 percent, and we are willing
to go even further."

11. (SBU) Rasmussen responded that "we could say 100 percent. We
could declare that we will end the consumption of fossil fuels by
the end of the year, then we would have made a marginal, marginal
contribution to the fight against global warming. Because even if
we did, even if the whole EU did, even if all developed nations of
the world did it, it would still not be enough to reach the 2
degrees target. We would then probably have set ourselves some
challenges that are...very challenging financially. It's about
balance. And I accept that there is a positive competitive effect
of being a frontrunner, but there is also a competitive disadvantage
by being too much of a front-runner, and therefore the right place
for this discussion right here and now is (within) the EU."


12. (SBU) COP-15 was certainly a disappointment to the Danish
Government in that it did not provide the public relations boost it
had hoped for. Yet neither was it a bust--the opposition has not
been noticeably boosted, and recriminations over COP-15 seem to be
losing public interest, especially as implementation of the
Copenhagen Accord gathers steam. Instead, Danes seem eager to leave
the mixed results of COP-15 behind, choosing to move on to focus
political debate on other issues. Polls show a slight opposition
lead over the government, but that edge was not significantly
affected by COP-15. That said, emerging disagreements within the
governing coalition and with the opposition over international
climate negotiations have the potential to play out further, with
electoral implications.

13. (SBU) While the outcome of COP-15 is not directly destabilizing
the Rasmussen Government in the short term, the PM appears chastened
by his experience and unlikely to risk further high-stakes
appearances on the international stage. We expect Minister Friis to
now assume a more visible role enunciating Danish climate policy, as
Denmark transitions to a more modest role in international
negotiations. As COP-15 president for the remainder of 2010,
however, Denmark will remain an important player in international
climate negotiations, and we will continue to work together with the

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Government on shared interests in encouraging full implementation of
the Copenhagen Accord and building support for an effective
international agreement. In coordination with the Department, we
will engage with Minister Friis to exchange views on the best way


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