Not long ago, Denmark was making headlines for harvesting so much wind power that it was leading the way in generating renewable energy, while becoming a center of innovation and growth for green and clean technology.
Read more: Denmark, a Green Energy Leader, Slows Pace of Its Spending - The New York Times
Then, in June, a center-left government was replaced by a right-wing, minority coalition determined to tighten spending and balance the budget in a program to improvethe economy.
The budget cuts include a key fund that was used to seed green technology projects — a government subsidy that environmental advocates said had paid itself off many times over.
“This funding has proven instrumental for Danish advances in clean tech for many years, and it is incomprehensible why it is being cut now,” said Soren Houmoller, whose 1st Mile consulting company helps businesses apply for public funds in Denmark.
Mette Abildgaard, a spokeswoman for green energy affairs for the opposition Danish Conservative People’s Party, said the timing of the cuts was disappointing.
“I believe this is a very bad signal to be sending the world, for Denmark to be taking a step backwards just before the Paris climate summit,” she said last month.
The debate going on in Denmark may serve as a cautionary tale for leaders of the 195 countries now meeting in Paris and trying to reach a global deal to rein in dangerous greenhouse gases that have been linked to climate change.
Should the negotiators be able to put aside their conflicting agendas, and sign an accord when the talks end this week, they will then face another challenge: meeting their national goals.
One lesson they may learn from Denmark is how it is possible to substantially replace fossil fuels with clean and renewable energy. But even when progress is made in reducing environmentally harmful carbon emissions, countries may have difficulty sustaining the gains because of politics, economic concerns and, in places like the United States, ideological disputes.