National Climate Policy – 1. Denmark

Under the ’92 Framework Convention, all countries are equal, but some are more equal than others.

The CBDR/RC principle seeks to distinguish developed countries from developing, for the first period – as it turns out, from 1992 to 2020.  The principle says that all countries should protect the climate on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

That is code for the North cutting emissions immediately (from the ‘90s) while the South could increase as they grow economically, then curb, then cut.

So within the North (the Annex I parties), does CBDR/RC apply – back then, now, and forever more?  What does CBDR/RC say, if anything, about Denmark and New Zealand – two rich, Annex I parties?  What is the ‘fair share’, so to speak, of each?

In short, Denmark leaves us for dead, both in terms of emission record to date and future climate strategy.

From 1990 to 2010, Denmark’s net emissions dropped 18.7%.  New Zealand’s increased 59.5%.

The GHG profiles of Denmark and New Zealand differ.  But they differ in degree and not in kind.  They do not differ so greatly that Denmark’s emissions can drop 18.7% and New Zealand’s can justifiably rise 59.5%.  It is, to a significant extent, a question of official policy.  And that, to some extent, is a question of national attitude.

The Danes are a practical and clear-minded bunch.  Denmark has no hydro, and has said ‘no’ to nuclear.  In the wake of the oil shocks of the ‘70s, they simply began subsidising wind power, in the informed belief that this would give them an edge in future decades.  Now they lead in local wind power and turbine exports.  Denmark supplies New Zealand with most of its turbines.

New Zealand could have done the same.  It chose not to.  It has its own wind turbine manufacturers – they are left to twist.  We lost out on an opportunity – this in the name of ‘global least cost’.

Then they encourage consumers.  They offer feed-in tariffs, and households can elect to pay a small premium for wind-generated electricity.  My friend whom I stayed with in Copenhagen does.  Many do.  I do this with my house back home – and the company minimises the return.

Denmark is, of course, part of the EU’s regional ETS.  But the EU-ETS covers only 45% of its emissions (energy, industry and waste – not transport).  Each nation is left to its own devices as to what it does with the rest. Denmark has excelled.

It is a question of national attitude.  The Danes have largely a cross-party consensus on climate policy.  This enables them to look forward.  They have recently adopted a Danish Energy Agreement 2012-20. Total energy will be 35% renewable; electricity will be 50% wind.  In August they adopted a Climate Plan along with a Measures Catalogue that identifies emission reduction measures that can be tried and emulated by various businesses.

So they have an unconditional target of 40% cut off 1990 by 2020.  None of this is external trading – it is all domestic.  This means a reduction from 58 Mt in 2011 to 40 Mt in ’20.  At present they are tracking to 44 Mt and are concerned at their 4 Mt ‘emissions gap’.  They are working on it.  Of the 14 Mt reduction in the space of 10 years, only 1.9 Mt will come from forestry.

Consider New Zealand.  We have a target of 5% for 2020/1990.  We are on track to soar above this on present projections.  Before 2020, on current ETS settings, our forestry is likely to change from being a GHG sink to a source.

Agriculture does not mesmerise them.  They have reduced – horror of horrors – they have reduced their dairy herd.  Their dairy productivity has gone up.  Their methane emissions are stable, their nitrous oxide is reducing.  The water quality of their streams is improving.

They have – horrors – a high tax on new cars, but light tax on small cars.  Their vehicle emissions are stable.

They are substituting coal with wood pellets.

The Danes are not perfect with their climate policy.  But they have much to teach us.  Above all, attitude.

6 Comments Posted

  1. Many of the above comments need some clarification. The recession in 2011 had nothing to do with windpower. It was a result of the reduced trading across all of Europe caused by the debt crisis.The Danish currency has been linked to the Euro for many years so has not helped Denmark avoid EU problems. All forms of energy are somehow subsidised; they include governments building dams and gas and coal generation plants [NZ], subsidies to coal mining and oil drilling in the form of reduced taxes, governments paying for nuclear power stations, etc. Certainly some of those have been funded by private enterprise but the government has been left with the costs of decommissioning and clean-up, often more expensive than building a nuclear plant in the first place.

    Certainly noise from wind turbines is a big problem but that can be solved by siting them away from habitation, particularly off shore. Certainly all nations must look at other forms of renewable energy as well – windpower should be only part of the mix.

    Yes, Denmark imports electricity from Norway and Germany to supplement it’s windpower but it also exports excess windpower energy to Norway and the EU grid when it has excess capacity, which is frequent.

  2. Thanks Kennedy for this report, we need to learn from what others are doing. But as the comments reveal, we need balanced reports that consider the pros and cons of the situation. Otherwise our debates take the form of competing sides talking past each other.

  3. Those would be the grids that allow access to the Norwegian hydro power stations that are ideal for buffering the output of wind farms, just like South Island hydro can buffer North Island wind generation via our undersea cables.

    It is easy to be windy when you have access to good hydro generation.


  4. Of course, it is rather convenient that Denmark’s grids are part of wider European grids, so that all those heavy inertia nuclear and coal power stations of their neighbours provide power stability to Denmark.

    Its easy to be windy when you are just a small part of a bigger jigsaw.

  5. Brilliant. Denmark’s winters would chill a Mainlander, so it’s got a much greater need for winter heating requirements than our relatively balmy clime (espec North Is). Shame on us for letting politicians weasel away opportunities to not only cut emissions but support local renewable manufacturers, etc. Nek elekshun!

  6. I’m not entirely sure that Denmark is a great example. They went into recession in 2010/11. Their growth in the past three years has declined to negative .8%. Unemployment is over 6% and youth unemployment is over 11%.
    The things which have probably saved Denmark from being sucked into the EU nightmare is still having their own currency and that they are very pro free trade.
    Its not all good in the Wind industry either.Danish electricity bills have been almost as dramatically affected as the Danish landscape. Thanks in part to wind farm subsidies, Danes pay some of Europe’s highest energy tariffs – on average, more than twice those in Britain. Under public pressure, Denmark’s ruling Left Party is curbing the handouts to the wind industry.

    “Since 2005 alone, 5.1 billion kroner [£621 million] has been paid to the wind turbine owners. That cost has been borne by businesses and private consumers,” says the party’s environment spokesman, Lars Christian Lilleholt. “It seems to have become a political fashion to say that there should be more support for wind. But we have to look at other renewables. We cannot go on with wind power only.”

    The subsidy cuts are almost certainly the main reason behind the decrease in interest but public anger is real enough, too. Until recently, there was relatively little opposition to the windmills. But now a threshold appears to have been crossed. Earlier this year, a new national anti-wind body, Neighbours of Large Wind Turbines, was created. More than 40 civic groups have become members.

    “People are fed up with having their property devalued and sleep ruined by noise from large wind turbines,” says the association’s president, Boye Jensen Odsherred. “We receive constant calls from civic groups that want to join.”

    In one typical battle, in the central city of Svendborg, the local council set height and number limits on turbines under heavy pressure from locals. “The violent protests and the uncertainty about low-frequency noise means that right now we will not expose our citizens to large windmills,” said the deputy mayor, Lars Erik Hornemann.

    There has also been growing scrutiny of the wind industry’s macro claims. Though wind may indeed generate an amount of electricity equal to about a fifth of Danes’ needs, most of that electricity cannot actually be used in Denmark.”

    So, wind doesn’t work unless its heavily subsidised (irony- the rich land owners get richer) and the health issues are coming to the fore. Looking at the health issue it seems the Precautionary principle should be applied as we don’t wish to damage people health do we?

Comments are closed.