Something Rotten in the State of Denmark?

| Mon Oct. 12, 2009 1:52 PM EDT

After all my blogging about the relative peachiness of climate politics in Denmark, over the weekend the story broke that the country's lead negotiator has resigned.

Thomas Becker, deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry for Climate and Energy and Minister Connie Hedegaard's "right hand man," quit his post on Friday—apparently not long after we were hearing from Hedegaard about how much agreement there is on climate policy in Denmark. The Danish press is speculating that the departure is the result of a rift between Becker's views and those of the new Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen. Becker is said to have wanted the country to stake out a more aggressive position on climate than the PM's office is willing to back.

Hedegaard said on Danish television that his exit is "purely an administrative matter." Becker will apparently be replaced with senior diplomat Steffen Smidt. From Reuters:

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The move so close to the Dec. 7-18 meeting coincided with growing worries about whether governments will reach a deal after talks in Bangkok made little progress. Only one more meeting, in Barcelona next month, remains before negotiators come to Denmark.

Although the host's chief negotiator can wield influence as a broker behind the scenes, Denmark's own position is tightly tied to European Union policy, and Becker's absence was seen as unlikely to change an outcome which will be decided primarily by the big powers.

Becker is credited with the idea of holding the climate change conference, which Hedegaard will chair, in the Danish capital.

DailyKos also has an excellent piece giving context to the departure, including a translation of Hedegaard's statement:

I don't think I've ever had as close a working relation with the prime minister ... I would be lying if I didn't admit that there have been controversies; I've brought people from the climate ministry, they're supposed to work with people in the prime minister's office–it's a clash of cultures. The pressure on all of us is extraordinary ... but throwing mud like this will get us nowhere.