Jan 26, 2017

This article was first published on Altinget.dk on the 4th of january 2017. Read the original article in Danish here.

From the Chairmen of Gate 21: Steen Christiansen (S), Martin Manthorpe og Niels Axel Nielsen

There are only good reasons to set ambitious climate goals and strive towards the green transition. The big investors have seen the potential – as have cities, companies and research institutions. In Denmark it is time to convert our world famous green brand into export orders and not let Sweden stand alone as ‘the world’s first fossil-free welfare state’.

Our new foreign minister, Anders Samuelsen, has been on a trip to Stockholm, one of the fastest growing cities in Europe. He was there was to promote Danish urban development and smart city solutions. And there is no doubt that there will be many more such trips. The world’s cities are growing at explosive rates, and they must be designed, built and adapted to be sustainable, preferably in a way that also makes them nice to live in. It is what the Danes – as a result of many years of long-term sustainable urban development in the Danish municipalities – have become quietly known for worldwide.

And the Foreign Minister, along with the energy, power and thermal ministers, is completely on board with the idea that the green transition is a good deal for Denmark. Especially now that the world community has ratified the Paris Agreement, there will be an additional pressure to demand change.

So there is plenty to rejoice about in a year that would otherwise have offered a lot of heavy news: 2016 is another record warm year; both the Arctic and Antarctic are melting, for the first time now, simultaneously. The concentration of methane in the atmosphere has increased alarmingly. The number of climate refugees now exceeds the number of refugees fleeing war. They can’t breathe properly in Paris, Beijing and Delhi. Just to make a few poignant examples.

Only one way for the green transition

We all have a job here. This applies to states, regions and municipalities, as well as industry, research, investors and civil society.

This was reaffirmed for world leaders and all of us who participated in this year’s UN climate conference COP22 in Marrakesh.

‘Marrakesh Partnership for Global Climate Action’ was launched to secure this common responsibility. It must be a platform alongside the UN climate talks in 2020 to bring the state and non-state actors together to identify and collaborate on specific opportunities to increase voluntary climate action now.

Just in time for Christmas we can rejoice that Bill Gates has drawn a group of investors together in the mutual fund Breakthrough Energy Ventures to invest over one billion dollars in sustainable energy solutions. The big investors are starting to move in.

The cities of the world have gathered in the Global Covenant of Mayors (which is a grouping of both the Compact of Mayors and the Covenant of Mayors) and really taken the lead for the green transition, strongly supported by visionary companies and cutting-edge research in green solutions.

The world’s strongest green brand

But what more concrete, can we offer from the Danish side? Denmark has one of the world’s strongest green brands, and our cities win awards and recognition for being among the best in the world to live in. This is the result of long-term, sustainable urban planning and courageous political choice, among other things.

Our experience and skills must be carried on with smart cities, where new technology combined with social processes, the involvement of citizens and cooperation across regions, municipalities, businesses and research are crucial to ensuring our cities continue to be livable.

Gate 21 is one of the places that works with strong goals and proven results to make Danish cities and communities even greener and better to live in.

Visits from around the world

We receive weekly delegations from municipalities, authorities, companies, networks and universities.

They come from Qatar, Australia and South Korea (the latter has visited us three years in a row) because we have collected municipalities, companies – in this case almost the entire Danish lighting industry – and research institutions in a Living Lab, DOLL, showing the future of lighting which not only saves energy, but will also be a communication pillar in tomorrow’s smart city.

Singapore wants to buy this model of cooperation and development. So while the Foreign Minister was in Stockholm, a delegation of investors from Singapore came to visit us to find green Danish companies to work with.

But there is also demand for all things green: green transport solutions, circular economy, the energy efficiency of buildings and conversion of energy systems.

In Denmark, we have the unique situation that our cities are looking for solutions to make themselves available for development with companies and research initiatives. That gives us a unique testing and development environment and a compelling showcase for the outside world.

Policy objectives increase demand

When the 189 countries deliver on the common climate agreement, there will have to be investment in the green transition. The potential is estimated at 70,000 billion DKK by 2030. That’s a staggering figure.

Last year, Danish energy technology exports were worth more than 71 billion DKK. Of that amount, green energy technology accounted for 43.6 billion kroner ie. the majority.

This separates Denmark from other EU countries. The Danish export of energy technology over the past 15 years has grown by about seven percent per year. DI Energy has estimated that the Paris Agreement could double the Danish export of energy technology to the EU, USA, China and Mexico to around 115-125 billion by 2030.

In November the EU Commission put forward eight legislative proposals which included proposals to strengthen energy efficiency, increase the share of renewable energy, establish a coherent electric system and limit CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The Commission has determined that in the next decade EU countries will together invest well 870 billion DKK annually in new energy infrastructure and their new proposals for investments in greener and cleaner energy will create up to 900,000 new jobs in the EU by 2030.

People want the green transition

The Danish population is showing agreement with CONCITO’s recently published annual climate barometer which shows that almost nine out of ten Danes consider global climate change a serious problem.

The proportion that are concerned that climate change will be to the detriment of themselves in their lifetime has risen from 30 percent last year to 41 percent this year.

CONCITO’s figures simultaneously show that the proportion of Danes who fully or partly agree that the green transformation of Denmark’s production and consumption patterns is a prerequisite for generating growth and prosperity in the future has risen from 60 percent last year to 67 percent this year.

And finally, the percentage of voters who want their party to do more for the climate rose from 49 percent in 2015 to 55 percent this year.

The climate change agenda has thus moved on from being a ‘political hygiene factor’ that we could posture about on special occasions, but did not act on if it became an uncomfortable topic and something that politicians could win or lose an election on.

In other words there are ONLY good reasons to set our climate goals high and make every effort to achieve them.

In Denmark we should take our Swedish neighbours firmly in the hand and accompany them towards the goal of becoming the world’s first fossil- free welfare state in 2040-2045.