SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Rasmussen, some members of your government seem not to take climate change very seriously. Your finance minister publicly stated that the claims and predictions made by scientists are exaggerated. Is your government doing all it can when it comes to climate change?
Rasmussen: The government, including the minister of finance, has already presented its energy plan. Our position is very clear. We want a further development of renewable energy, including second-generation bio fuels. We also want to expand the use of biomass.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Experts criticize that Denmark is no longer the model country it used to be when it comes to the use of renewable energies. Denmark made strong progress in the 1990s, but has stagnated since you took office in 2001.
Rasmussen: If you ask the former minister of the environment, of course he is very critical, because we had to cut some of his subsidies. But we want to get value for our money and redirect some of the investment for the environment. For instance, we made a gradual decrease in the subsidies for wind power. There is a promising perspective -- and not only in regard to windmills -- that technological development will make renewable energy competitive on the free market.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: But in recent years, the pace of reducing greenhouse gas emissions has slowed in Denmark.
Rasmussen: That is not correct. Denmark is the most ambitious EU member state when it comes to the reduction of greenhouse gases. In the Kyoto protocol, we committed ourselves to a reduction of 21 percent by 2012, more than any other state.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: When it comes to energy mix, Denmark is well on its way to a 20 percent share for renewables -- which is what the EU this week wants to set as a goal to be reached by the entire 27-member bloc by 2020. Is Denmark just going to sit back until then?
Rasmussen: We are not quite there yet. Our share is now at 15 percent. Some weeks ago, my government presented an ambitious energy plan; the goal is to double that to 30 percent by 2025. When it comes to electricity, we already have a 20 percent share of renewable energy, thanks to wind power.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Climate experts have criticized that you have stopped installing new wind farms.
Rasmussen: Actually we have decided to expand wind energy, especially in offshore parks. We have been facing problems concerning the location of certain windmills on land because of protests by locals. But we are working on that. Part of the solution is that a number of small windmills can be replaced by bigger and more efficient windmills. So the number of windmills can be reduced, but the capacity goes up. The bigger windmills can almost compete on the free market and don't need subsidies.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Internationally, nuclear energy seems to be approaching a renaissance. Is it, as France sees it, the new green energy?
Rasmussen: No. And it is not part of our energy policy. First and foremost, I want to stress that it is a basic principle of EU policy that it is national responsibility to decide the energy mix. We do not interfere with other countries' decisions concerning nuclear energy. But I do not consider it a renewable energy.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Greenland, where the ice sheet is rapidly melting, is part of Denmark, and large parts of your country are below sea level. Meaning Denmark is one of the first to be affected by climate change. How high of a priority is climate change for Denmark?
Rasmussen: Our long-term vision is to make Denmark independent of fossil fuels. For now, we are in a very comfortable position: We have oil and gas fields in the North Sea, so we are independent for our energy needs and we are the only net exporter of energy in the EU. I want Denmark to be completely independent in the future as well, meaning after the reserves in the North Sea have been emptied. To that end, we have to further develop renewable energy.
Interview conducted by Carsten Volkery