Danish conservative prepares to take the reins

Danish conservative prepares to take the reins

Copenhagen: Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s minister for climate and energy, feels little kinship with the green end of the political spectrum—people who stage sit-ins at power plants or vote for the Green parties in elections.

“I’ve never understood why the environment should be a left-wing issue," said Hedegaard, with an exasperated sigh. “In my view there is nothing as core to conservative beliefs—that what you inherit you should pass on to the next generation."

Denmark—and Hedegaard —will play host in December to hundreds of nations that will gather in Copenhagen for the UN-sponsored global climate treaty negotiations. The meetings are tasked with finalizing a new global plan to tackle climate change. Hedegaard, who two years ago offered her city as the site for the negotiations, will be the president and the chairwoman of the 12-day event.

The placement of Hedegaard, a lifelong conservative, at the centre of the preparations reflects in large part the shifting of global environmental issues from the fringe into the political mainstream.

Unlike Germany, the Netherlands and France, Denmark has never had a Green party, Hedegaard points out. In fact, she said, she sees herself as an environmentalist in the model of Theodore Roosevelt, a lifelong hunter who campaigned ardently for protecting natural resources.

“People say environment is a soft issue, but it’s not," she said recently. “It’s about where we get our energy from, about security, about growing economies. I’m a conservative, I worry about that."

Hedegaard arrived in Washington on Wednesday to attend the Major Economies Forum on Climate Change and to meet with officials in preparation for the Group of Twenty summit meeting in Pittsburgh this week. She will then travel to New York for a climate summit meeting convened by the UN secretary general, BanKi-moon, on Monday. The Danes, who have been hyperkinetically anticipating the December meetings, are holding their own “pre-summit" of environmental ministers just outside New York City this weekend.