Kennedy Graham

National Climate Policy – 1. Denmark

by Kennedy Graham

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.