Denmark to Slash Environmental Spending

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, January 30, 2002 (ENS) - Large cuts in Danish spending on environmental policy making and aid to developing countries were confirmed yesterday in a draft 2002 budget unveiled by the government. The supplementary proposal follows the victory of center-right parties in elections last November.

The government is aiming to find an extra 943 million (US$812.6 million) to pay for improvements in hospitals and elderly care and to introduce one year maternity leave and new tax breaks for business. To pay for this, it is proposing major expenditure cuts across all ministries in subsidies, foreign aid and advisory boards and councils, including many working on environmental issues.

Schmidt

Danish Environment Minister Hans Christian Schmidt (Photo courtesy Office of the Minister)
Funding for 18 environmental boards and councils should cease altogether, the finance ministry said earlier this month. At the same time, Environment Minister Hans Christian Schmidt is planning a new institute to focus on reducing costs to industry of environmental regulations.

Denmark's environmental administration is to be particularly hard hit. Compared with an overall cut across the civil service of one in 25 positions, one in seven will go at the environment ministry. This will wipe out 420 jobs out of around 3,000, including one in five at the Danish Environmental Protection Agency where 90 of 450 positions will be cut, and one in three at the National Energy Agency, where 70 of 230 jobs will be lost.

"We are not dismissing staff in the environmental ministry because they have been poor workers, but because we think the money is better put to use in other areas," Schmidt told national newspaper "Berlingske Tidende."

"We're doing what people have wanted for many years in Danish politics. We have the desire and the will to judge how we will use taxpayers' money in the best way possible," said finance minister Thor Pedersen.

Denmark's generous environmental foreign aid program is to be slashed in half, bringing cries of "massacre" from environmental groups.

Kim Carstensen, head of the Danish branch of the conservation group WWF, predicted that shock waves would be felt at this August's UN sustainability summit in Johannesburg, South Africa where Denmark will be leading the European Union delegation.

"It's difficult to appear as a pioneer when you have just halved your contribution," he said.

logo

{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email: envdaily@ends.co.uk}