Home International Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s ‘Ms Climate’

Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s ‘Ms Climate’


Copenhagen: The first decision taken by the UN climate change conference after it opened Monday was to formalise the appointment of Connie Hedegaard of Denmark as its president.

On accepting the vote, Hedegaard urged delegates not to waste any time, saying “this is the place to commit”.

“This is our chance. If we miss it, it could take years before we get a new and better one. If ever,” she added.

The conference, which aims to secure a new global deal on curbing emissions of greenhouse gases, is the fruition of years of talks and preparations.

In the run-up to the meeting, the former Danish climate and energy minister shuttled between various capitals and venues, delivered speeches and penned articles on the importance of clinching an agreement.

Hedegaard, 49, has a wide political network and her efforts to help craft a successful deal in Copenhagen have included informal meetings with environment ministers within the framework of the Greenland dialogue.

These discussions began in 2005, and the ministers have formed a network that may come into play during the Copenhagen talks.

Hedegaard is a member of the Conservative Party, the junior partner in Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen’s minority centre-right government.

When she was 24, Hedegaard was elected to parliament after engaging in politics at Copenhagen University, where she studied history and literature.

She left politics in 1990 for some years to work in journalism, including the newspaper Berlingske Tidende and as a news presenter for Danish public broadcaster DR, but made a comeback as environment minister in August 2004.

The portfolio was enlarged with climate issues in 2007 and Hedegaard has since pushed through measures to raise taxes for emitters of carbon dioxide (CO2) and promoting renewable energy sources.

Last month, Hedegaard was nominated by the Danish government to the executive European Commission.

Her political CV and profile were cited when European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso nominated her for the new climate action post in the incoming commission.

Moving to Brussels means that Hedegaard, mother of two, will leave the Danish political stage and party leader Lene Espersen can avoid a potential challenge to her leadership.

Espersen, minister for economics and business affairs, has taken a tougher line than Hedegaard on several issues, including immigration.

Hedegaard’s green profile – and an example of Copenhagen’s image as a haven for cyclists – has included cycling to work from Hellerup, north of the capital.

Time magazine included her in its list of 100 most influential people of 2009 because of her fight against climate change.