The front-runners in the climate fight

Despite economic growth of 80 per cent, Denmark’s energy consumption has not grown for 30 years. This makes the country an interesting case at a time when the world is fighting to create growth without increasing CO2 emissions. Denmark’s green adventure is a story about how sharp environmental and energy duties, a political vision of making the country self-sufficient in energy, and how close cooperation between authorities, research institutions and the business community have created a lucrative innovation environment.

Two key messages are repeated over and over whenever Denmark’s climate minister, Connie Hedegaard, travels around the world to promote Denmark as the host of the UN’s climate summit in Copenhagen in December; Denmark’s energy consumption has not grown for 30 years, despite an economic growth of 80 per cent. And, over a fifth of the electricity that the Danes use today comes from windmills.

Every time Hedegaard tells that story, she is met with astonished looks and applause, for both of Denmark’s achievements are unique in the world. And the combination of the two means that Denmark’s CO2 emissions are falling. See figure 1.

That makes Denmark an interesting case study at a time when the entire world is fighting tooth and claw to keep some kind of life in economic growth, while simultaneously being more and more pressurized to reduce the growth of CO2 emissions. Globally, these two figures have, up until now, developed proportionally, but the shared challenge over the next 40 years will be to reduce at least 50 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions – in the rich countries at least 90 per cent – to avoid a global climate catastrophe.