Scandinavia: Excelling in Environmental Protection
October 27, 2011
Scandinavian countries can serve as a role model when it comes to environmental protection. Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland top all league tables in terms of water and air purity, the use of renewable energy, greenhouse gas emission cuts and the extent to which the public is environmentally aware. Scandinavia owes that to many years of concerted efforts undertaken by governments in these countries and a development strategy founded on smart investment.
Environmental protection plays a vital role in political and economic decisions made in Scandinavian countries. Other Europeans can learn from Scandinavians how to change their approach to life and save the natural resources that are still left at our disposal.
Support from business is of major significance to Scandinavia’s environmental policies. A country can reduce energy consumption and yet maintain sustained economic growth only when a powerful business lobby decides to pursue eco-friendly projects, even if investment in these will take years to pay back.
One of the best examples of this policy is the Swedish furniture corporation IKEA, which has successfully worked for the environment both at home and abroad. At the end of September, the IKEA Retail company, part of the IKEA Group, bought two wind farms in Poland with a power output of 28 MW and undertook to buy a third one, scheduled for completion in the near future (26 MW). The three wind farms will produce enough electricity to power 16 IKEA stores and continue a string of sustainability projects Ikea has pursued, including solar panels on roofs and heat and power cogeneration at IKEA industry groups. The latest purchase will also strengthen Poland’s energy efficiency. So far IKEA has invested in similar wind farms in Germany, Sweden, Britain and France.
According to Walter Kadnar, country manager for IKEA in Poland, the IKEA group has taken a step closer to accomplishing sustainable development and a long-term goal of exclusively using energy obtained from renewable sources. “We are confident that in the future we will be able to use energy produced in this way to power our stores in Poland,” Kadnar said. “Sustainable development and environmental measures are an integral part of our strategy and express our vision of ensuring better living conditions for many people.”
The chief objective is to cut emissions of carbon dioxide generated by IKEA Group’s facilities around the world. The company aims for the facilities to exclusively use energy from renewable sources. The plan matches a trend commonplace in Scandinavia under which these economies aim to eventually become independent of fossil fuels. Although experts believe the goal cannot be achieved in the next 30 years, Scandinavians are positive they need to think about it now and act to make it all happen. As a matter of fact, this is a challenge for all of Europe, because when the goal is achieved, Europe will become less dependent on oil and gas producers.
Europeans recently got a first-hand lesson in how important it is to be self-sufficient when it comes to energy resources when a gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine temporarily interrupted natural gas deliveries from Russia to the West.
Countries that do not depend on others for energy are best exemplified by Denmark, which is a major exporter of clean energy. Over the past several decades Denmark has grown into a leading producer of wind power, and wind turbines are now a permanent fixture in the Danish landscape. Rows of wind turbines also rise from Danish waters, the largest such clusters located at the entrance to the port in Copenhagen and near Esbjerg in southern Jutland. Danish companies that plan, build, operate and maintain wind farms include Vestas, which also operates in Poland. The company boasts over 41,000 wind turbines built around the world. Danish businesses dealing with environmental protection and renewable energy in Poland also include Niras Polska Sp. z o.o., a subsidiary of Denmark’s Niras Consulting Engineers and Planners A/S.
In addition to utilizing wind power, Denmark generates electricity from solar energy. The world’s largest complex of solar panels is under construction on the Danish island of Ærø. The Danish public is highly aware of ecological issues, which has triggered a growing interest in environmentally friendly housing, with a growing number of environmentally-friendly villages where houses are built of recycled materials and residents harvest rainwater. Research shows that water consumption in Denmark has dropped 40 percent in the past decade. The use of electricity is down as well, resulting from increasingly strict energy standards pertaining to housing. It pays off better for Danes to invest in insulation so they can save on heat and power.
Sweden, in turn, is a fine example of a zero-waste economy where waste is turned into raw materials. Every year, energy companies in Sweden import over 200,000 metric tons of waste, mainly from Norway, Denmark and Germany. In 2002, Sweden banned the landfill dumping of types of waste that could undergo thermal treatment and ever since the country has been rapidly developing heat systems utilizing incinerated waste.
Scandinavia serves as proof that environmental protection can be a profitable business. Sweden is a leading exporter of environmental protection technology and devices, an industry that generates 4 billion euros in annual revenues. There are around 700 highly specialized companies in the sector that provide jobs to almost 100,000 people. Annual sales in this business exceed those of the car industry, which is commonly regarded as the chief branch of Sweden’s industry.
Information and human capital combined with a determined environmental policy have won Scandinavian countries the status of unquestionable global leaders in environmental protection.