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The Warsaw Voice » Other » December 3, 2008
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Green Tradition
December 3, 2008   
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Hans Michael Kofoed-Hansen, the Danish ambassador to Poland, speaks with Hilary Heuler ahead of the summit on climate change in Poznań.

What steps is Denmark taking to combat climate change?
Denmark is taking a very active and engaged role in global negotiating forums. Two years ago, the Danish government had already established a climate change committee of ministers headed by the prime minister. Then one year ago we created a Ministry for Climate and Energy-I say this just to exemplify Denmark's engagement and commitment to this process. Practically speaking, climate change and energy efficiency are being pursued in two ways: through the introduction and use of renewable energy sources, meaning non-carbon based energy, to the fullest extent possible; and through the highest degree of energy efficiency. The energy we use should be used in the best possible way. There's a great willingness among the Danish public to introduce renewable energy sources, but also to save energy. For instance, we have a high taxation on cars, and recently it was calibrated so that big energy-consuming cars would have the highest taxes and those that are more friendly to the climate would have lower taxes. There are a lot of government incentives to motivate people, industry and all parts of society to take energy saving and the danger of climate change into account.

How is Denmark cooperating with Poland on climate change issues?
Poland is hosting this year's very important climate change conference, and Denmark is hosting next year's, so these two are very closely linked in the sense that we all hope to come to a successful conclusion in Copenhagen next year. So the meeting in Poznań in December is just as important to us as it is to Poland. We have been cooperating closely with the Polish environment minister for over a year on what steps should be taken in Poznań to prepare the way for the global agreement in Copenhagen next year. We are assisting each other on a number of levels in the negotiating process.

What is Denmark expecting from the upcoming summit in Poznań?
The Bali COP13 conference last year laid out certain goals regarding what should be achieved in Poznań in order to create the building blocks of an agreement. The expectation is that there will be a shared vision by all parties for the reductions we have to commit ourselves to in the final agreement. There should be an action plan created for the road to Copenhagen. Then there is a strong need for progress on the financial architecture: a fund for adaptation to climate change and support for the transfer of technology towards a less carbon-reliant economy, and how to finance developing economies in their transition.

Can you tell us about Denmark's tradition of environmental protection? What else is the Danish state doing to protect the environment?
Environment, climate and energy conservation are different sides of the same question. Being a fairly small country with limited size and traditional intensive agricultural production, we realized over 50 years ago that we had to pay enormous attention both to the country and to the activities of human beings-whether they be in intensive farming or in industry-because the one could be affecting the other. Already in the early 1960s we created the first Ministry for the Environment, I believe the first in the world. We have worked continuously, and thus we were several decades ahead of most other countries, to make sure that water quality, air quality, industry processes and so on were all being taken into account when decisions were made on expansion of industry. We have therefore developed not only the awareness, but also the tools, the technology and the incentives for the whole society to focus on the environmental aspect of developments. This carries over directly into climate change, since we had various caps on emissions very early on. We have been working a lot on emissions into our waters from the agricultural sector, where you can easily destroy your natural water supply and your streams. I know we had legislation on this at least as early as the 1980s, but I'm sure we had it even earlier than that.

In light of the global economic crisis, how will decreasing carbon dependence affect the economy?
We must realize that taking effective care of the threats to the global climate means that we have to transform our economies, how we produce, how we live, how we save energy and how we introduce renewable energies-all in order to become less dependent on fossil fuels. It's easier in some places than in others, and it's a long process. It will also have implications on our general economic performance. However, we are convinced that this transformation will not impede economic development. In fact, it will be a way of overcoming the present economic situation because this transformation will create millions of jobs, and will require enormous amounts of innovation and technological development. It will become one of the important industries and sectors of the future. It has already created jobs-look at China today, which is already one of the biggest producers of environmental and energy technology-based equipment. One could even say that those who take the lead in this field will be the innovative, advanced winners of the global competition. It is often said that dealing with the environment will automatically put a strain on normal economic development, but Denmark is an example to the contrary. Since 1981, the Danish economy has grown by 70 percent but during the same period Danish energy consumption has been more or less the same. It means that saving energy does not necessarily impede economic development. We have done a lot through regulation, through building methods and devices and improved efficiency in industry. We have green taxes and energy taxes, all meant to make people consider their consumption-turn off your computer at night, insulate your house, use modern thermostats, and so forth. That has also helped Danish industry become very competitive globally. Some of the Danish companies that have developed the technologies and know-how necessary for this to happen are in fact global leaders in their fields today. Examples include companies such as Danfoss, Rockwool, Velux and Novozymes, who are all well known in Poland and globally. Yet another example is the Danish giant in the field of wind energy, Vestas. Everybody knows about Danish windmills and wind turbines, and that idea has been picked up by many others. We started using wind energy quite early and it created a fantastic industry in Denmark, but in fact right now more than half our renewable energy comes from bio-energy. Actually, there are so many more yet unexploited possibilities with that. The present situation and the global necessity offer great opportunities.
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