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Denmark leading by example
Editorial

Denmark leading by example

| Text: Gwladys Fouché Photo: Johannes Jansson/norden.org

While other industrialised countries are talking up environmental promises ahead of the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark is already acting green and leading by example, writes freelance journalist Gwladys Fouché.

During a recent visit to Denmark, it was impressive to see the range of concrete actions the country has already taken. It puts to shame other nations, including some Nordic ones, which are making promises of being environmentally minded in future, with little efforts being done in the present.

In Denmark, weaning the country's independence on oil has been a government priority ever since the oil shocks of the 70s. Energy prices are high, a fact accepted by citizens and politicians alike.

The country has promoted the development of a cleantech sector early on, and is now the world leader in the production of wind power technology, accounting for 40% of the world's wind capacity installed, a market in which Denmark's Vestas is the world leader. The industry has even created 23,500 direct jobs at home, according to a June report by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature.

Efforts being made at local level are impressive too. In Aarhus, city leaders are preparing the second phase of a climate plan aiming to turn the city carbon-neutral by 2030. This means that in 2010-2011, a new tramline will be built, old city buildings are to be insulated to reduce their heating consumption, and it is building a network of charge points where electric car users can recharge their batteries.

In Copenhagen, around 36% of commuters cycle to work and the aim is that within a few years, that proportion will increase to half. The city aims to be first carbon-neutral capital in the world, by doing so in 2025.

Perhaps most impressive is the general attitude of Danes. Few will tell you that they are going green because they care for the children, or some other emotional argument often touted in green debates. They say they are doing it because there is money to be made. They say it straight, which is refreshing.

Contrast Denmark's with petroholic Norway, which is buying its way out of the climate change crisis. Sure, Jens Stoltenberg should be praised for promising Brazil $1bn to protect its rainforest.

It is laudable that it is investing big money in the Mongstad carbon-capture storage, or that it promised in October that it would cut the country's carbon emission, from 30% to 40% by 2020, to help conclude a UN climate deal. But Norway is buying its way out of the problem. The only way for the country to go carbon-neutral is to buy massive amounts of carbon credits abroad. Stoltenberg says he is looking for the most cost-effective solution to solve the climate change. But it is also the one that requires little effort on the part of Norwegians. It is easy to be green when you can buy the right to pollute thanks to the oil fund's trillions of crowns.

 

 

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