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5. Denmark

5.1. Climate neutrality target

Denmark has a climate neutrality target in 2050 and two interim targets of 50-54% in 2025 and 70% in 2030, compared to 1990. The targets include all greenhouse gases and LULUCF emissions. GHG emissions areas are calculated according to UN accounting rules. The targets are enshrined into the legally binding Danish Climate Act. The Danish government has proposed to move the climate neutrality target forward to 2045 and set a new net-negative target of 110% in 2050
Statsministeriet (14. december 2022). Regeringsgrundlag 2022: Ansvar for Danmark. Retrieved from, https://www.stm.dk/statsministeriet/publikationer/regeringsgrundlag-2022/
. These proposals have still to be turned into law.

5.2. Status of GHG emissions

Denmark has reduced emissions from 78.8 million tonnes of CO2e in 1990 to 48 million tonnes in 2021, a reduction of 39%. Another 8.6 million tonnes of CO2e must be reduced between 2021 and 2025 to reach the low end of climate target of 50-54% in 2025. As Figure 3 shows, the latest projection from the Danish Energy Agency
Energistyrelsen (April 2023). Klimastatus og -fremskrivning, 2023. Retrieved from  https://ens.dk/service/fremskrivninger-analyser-modeller/klimastatus-og-fremskrivning-2023
(DEA) assesses that the target is within reach based on existing policies. However, according to assessments by the Danish Climate Council and CONCITO there is high uncertainty regarding the projection in 2025. CONCITO estimates that new policies must deliver another 2.4 million tonnes in reductions before 2025 just to reach the lower (50%) end of the target range
Capion, K. & Hasforth, T. (May 2023). Sidste udkald for at nå klimamålet for 2025. CONCITO. Retrieved from, https://concito.dk/udgivelser/sidste-udkald-naa-klimamaalet-2025
Figure 3: Denmark's total net emissions as well as 2025 and 2030 targets
Source: Own figure based on DEA (2023). Klimastatus og -fremskrivning, 2023 https://ens.dk/sites/ens.dk/files/Basisfremskrivning/kf23_hovedrapport.pdf
To reach the 2030 target of 70%, Denmark must reduce emissions by 24.3 million tonnes of CO2e between 2021-2030. The latest projection by the DEA estimates that a further 5.4 million tonnes of reductions must be achieved to reach the target
Energistyrelsen (April 2023). Klimastatus og -fremskrivning, 2023. Retrieved from, https://ens.dk/sites/ens.dk/files/Basisfremskrivning/kf23_hovedrapport.pdf#page=11
The Parliament has agreed on a separate reduction target for agriculture and land-use that demands a further 5 million tonnes of GHG-emissions reduction in the sector. The government will propose a tax on GHG-emission on agriculture and land-use pending the recommendations from an expert committee. The expert committee shall put forth recommendations on how to tax and support the transition in the agricultural sector.
The electricity and district heating sector (excluding waste incineration) has historically accounted for up to 40% of the total Danish emissions. However, this share has decreased significantly since 2010 and in 2021, the sector accounted for only 11% of total emissions. In 2025, this share is expected to have dropped to 3%, and by 2030, electricity and district heating (excluding waste incineration) are expected to constitute less than 1% of total net emissions
Energistyrelsen (April 2023). Klimastatus og -fremskrivning, 2023. Retrieved from, https://ens.dk/sites/ens.dk/files/Basisfremskrivning/kf23_hovedrapport.pdf
There have been significant fluctuations in emissions from the electricity and district heating sector. These fluctuations are driven by fluctuating weather conditions, such as cold winters or varying precipitation levels in the Nordic region (which affect Nordic hydropower production). These fluctuations are expected to decrease in the future as total emissions from the electricity and district heating sector are reduced due to the phasing out of fossil-fired power plants and the transition to electricity production primarily based on wind, solar and biomass.
As emissions from electricity and district heat production decrease, the share of emissions from other sectors in the total emissions increase, as they are not reduced to the same extent. This is based on current predictions in the absence of new climate policy to reduce emissions in these other sectors.
Emissions from agriculture, forestry, horticulture and fisheries (including emissions from agricultural processes, agricultural areas and forests, as well as the sector's energy consumption) have thus gone from representing about 25% of the total emissions historically to constituting 34% of the total emissions in 2021. In 2025, this sector is expected to constitute 44% of net emissions, and by 2030, the sector's share of the total emissions is projected to rise further to 52%.
Similarly, the share of total net emissions from the transportation sector has grown from 15% in 1990 to 27% in 2021, and in 2025 and 2030 it is expected to account for 31% and 35% of net emissions, respectively.
The distribution of the total emissions in 2030 across sectors illustrates that emissions in 2030 will be concentrated in relatively few sectors. Nearly 90% of the total net emissions of 29.0 million tons of CO2e are expected to originate from either agriculture, land use or the transportation sector.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is expected to play a significant role in Danish emission reductions towards 2030. State subsidy schemes are targeting fossil, process and biogenic emissions which are expected to result in a total reduction of 3.2 million tonnes of CO2 pr. Year by 2030. This requires tendering and supporting policies in line with established climate goals.
Gross emissions (i.e. emissions before accounting for CCS), the emissions from agriculture, forestry, horticulture and fisheries, as well as the transportation sector, will constitute about 80% of total emissions in 2030.

5.3. Assessment of timing and adequacy

The DEA has outlined four scenarios for climate neutrality in Denmark in 2050
Energistyrelsen (2022, September 23). Resultater for KP22-scenarier. Retrieved from,https://ens.dk/sites/ens.dk/files/Basisfremskrivning/resultater_for_kp22-scenarier_23-09-2022.pdf
. These show several possible pathways for Denmark. These pathways are dependent on assumptions regarding technological development and behavioural changes. The scenarios are shown in the graph below:
Figure 4: Scenarios for reaching net-zero in Denmark in 2050
Source: DEA (2023). Klimastatus og -fremskrivning, 2023 https://ens.dk/sites/ens.dk/files/Basisfremskrivning/kf23_hovedrapport.pdf
In the DEA’s scenarios, the majority of residual emissions in 2030 will be from transport and agriculture. With continued electrification of road transport, after 2030 the remaining emissions will largely stem from agriculture and land-use towards 2040. Targeting technological development towards less GHG-intensive agricultural production and promoting dietary changes is thus key to achieving the long-term targets. Moreover, carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the atmosphere, biologically and technologically, is also necessary to achieve GHG-neutrality since agricultural production will lead to emissions of GHG.
Looking further ahead, the proposed climate target of 110% in 2050
Statsministeriet (14. december 2022). Regeringsgrundlag 2022, Ansvar for Danmark. Statsministeriet. Retrieved from, https://www.stm.dk/statsministeriet/publikationer/regeringsgrundlag-2022/
demands 8 million tonnes net-negative emissions. If residual emissions in 2050 are, for example, 6 million tonnes, 14 million tonnes CDR (8+6) will be needed to reach 110%. Moreover, there might be a demand for CO2, for example, for e-fuels and products. Thus, the net-negative target in 2050 emphasises that CDR must play an important role long-term. But the scale of CDR in climate politics will be very closely linked to residual emissions from the agricultural sector in particular, and the historical emissions that CDR must compensate for.