|09COPENHAGEN467||2009-10-21 06:06:00||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Embassy Copenhagen|
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1. (SBU) Summary: Thomas Becker, one of Denmark's senior climate
negotiators, resigned on October 8, fueling press and opposition
speculation about tensions between the Climate and Energy Ministry
and the Prime Minister's Office. Further details of Becker's
expense accounting have revealed a pre-existing condition which
forced his resignation. Following an October 16 appearance by
Hedegaard, the parliamentary environment committee declared the
matter closed. Hedegaard has downplayed speculation about past
tensions among the government's climate team. Becker has been
replaced by Steffen Smidt, whose appointment is unlikely to signify
change in Denmark's negotiating strategy. End Summary.
2. (U) Becker reportedly had received an 18-page written warning
from Climate Ministry Permanent Secretary Thomas Egebo on March 13,
detailing instances of questionable accounting by Becker for
official expenses, including:
-- spending extravagantly on representation events at COP-14 in
Poznan in December 2008, and at a UNFCCC session in Accra;
-- over-estimating and inaccurate reporting of attendance at
-- including the bar tab in vouchers for a staff seminar ($120 per
-- exceeding official per diem rates in Poznan and Geneva, by
hundreds of dollars a day;
-- charging laundry costs
-- not accounting for $37,000 in spending during 2008.
3. (U) Two other members of the Global Climate Office run by Becker
received similar warnings from Egebo, reportedly prompting forty
staff members to sign an open letter of concern about perceived
mistrust. After labor union involvement, Egebo promised to allocate
more clerical staff to help with paperwork associated with travel.
Egebo and Becker reportedly last met on September 24, prior to
Becker's attendance at the Bangkok UNFCCC negotiating round. Becker
called in sick for a few days after returning from Bangkok, then
resigned in an October 8 email to Egebo.
4. (U) Opposition and press speculation after the resignation
centered on alleged tension between the Climate Ministry and the
Prime Minister's Office. In this view, Becker's resignation was
regarded as a reflection of the Prime Minister's Office asserting
greater control over its climate negotiation team, and likely to
lower Denmark's level of ambition as host of COP-15.
5. (U) In the wake of the Becker resignation, Hedegaard turned over
responsibility for investigating the issue to the Justice Ministry,
due to her friendship with Becker. Called before the parliamentary
Environment Committee to explain the situation in her ministry on
October 16, Hedegaard, like other representatives of all parties
represented, declared the issues surrounding Becker's resignation
Steffen Smidt Named
6. (U) Steffen Smidt, a career diplomat and head of the MFA's
Center for Global Challenges was named in the wake of the Becker
resignation to take up the post of chief negotiator for the Climate
and Energy Ministry. Smidt had attended UNFCCC negotiation and
Major Economies Forum (MEF) rounds representing the Foreign
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7. (SBU) Becker's resignation came as a shock here, coming so close
to hosting COP-15, which Becker had a role in winning for Denmark.
The timing of Becker's sudden exit projected disarray and threatened
to damage the government's unity, the Prime Minister's reputation,
and Hedegaard's leadership of her ministry. The opposition assumed
political motives, driven by policy disagreement within the
government. But as details of Becker's expense accounts emerged,
public opinion has shifted. Hedegaard's explanations appear to have
quelled the controversy, permitting a return to political consensus
as the date of the conference fast approaches.
8. (SBU) Tensions between the PM's office and the Climate and
Energy Ministry are real, and reportedly came to a head earlier this
year, when then-PM Fogh Rasmussen sent his climate advisor, Bo
Lidegaard, to Washington to attend the first MEF meeting there,
rather than Hedegaard. Some here allege she threatened to resign
shortly after Lars Loekke Rasmussen became PM, unless given a larger
role; she has attended subsequent MEF meetings (as has Lidegaard).
Dismissing press allegations of a rift as dated in the wake of the
Becker resignation, Hedegaard has insisted that where tensions once
existed, they have been overcome, and made government coordination
of climate policy stronger.
9. (SBU) That said, Hedegaard and PM Loekke Rasmussen are political
allies (hailing from different political parties), and each has a
role. PM's climate advisor Lidegaard clearly has the PM's trust.
Hedegaard was not present at the October 2 bilateral meeting of the
PM, Lidegaard, FM Moeller and others with POTUS, SECC Stern and the
U.S. Ambassador on the margins of the International Olympic Congress
in Copenhagen. While Hedegaard's role is public, Lidegaard seems to
play a substantive role behind the scenes in the negotiations and
bilateral meetings with the PM and other nations.
10. (SBU) Ambassador Smidt's appointment as chief Danish negotiator
appears to signal more continuity than change in Denmark's
negotiating stance. In previous meetings Smidt has struck us as
open and friendly. On September 10, Smidt expressed appreciation
for the MEF process and understanding of the domestic process
affecting U.S. climate negotiating positions (Reftel).