Going green pays off!
The world needs a green transition. That is crucial to our children’s and grandchildren’s welfare.
OFFSHORE windfarm near Danish island of Samso Photo: Reuters
The world needs a green transition. That is crucial to our children’s and
grandchildren’s welfare. In 2030, the world will have 3 billion more
middle class consumers than today, which will put massive pressure on the
Earth’s resources and place serious strain on the climate and
There is no way around a new growth strategy. We need a
smart new growth strategy where we create jobs through commercial solutions to
the Earth’s resource problems. Smart growth can only be created if we all pull
together – governments, cities, corporations and consumers.
There is now
less than a month to the Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro
(Rio+20), which is being held 20 years after the Earth Summit in the same city
in 1992 where the environment was placed at the top of the agenda. There is a
lot at stake when the political leaders meet in Brazil. The ambition of
Denmark and the EU is undiminished. It is essential to reach agreement on
specific results in Rio. But negotiations are proceeding too slowly. We are
seeing a high degree of scepticism towards the green economy concept among a
number of important countries.
While the prospects of reaching a strong
global political agreement are mixed, it is very positive to see how strong a
role civil society, and especially municipalities and private sector companies
have gained, or perhaps more accurately, have assumed. They help to
maintain the pressure on the world’s leaders. Even more importantly,
municipalities and corporations are in the process of taking a leading position
and – perhaps – becoming the real leaders in the green
Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, is helping to show the way.
Copenhagen has now set the ambitious objective of becoming the world’s first CO2
neutral capital by 2025. It is a very ambitious plan which requires continued
long-term efforts. But it is possible and we have made a start. In 2011,
Copenhagen had reduced its CO2 emissions by 21 percent seen in relation to
On May 22, the Municipality of Copenhagen presented the plan for
how Copenhagen will become CO2 neutral. In the plan, we propose solutions that
will be initiated in close partnership between public and private sector
players. Wind turbines will be installed and investments made in solar cells,
and power stations will be converted from fossil fuels to biomass. In the
future, Copenhageners will cycle even more, and we will invest in hybrid buses
for public transport. Buildings in Copenhagen will be energy-renovated, and new
buildings will be energy efficient.
In return, Copenhageners will gain in
terms of increased growth and life quality. Cleaner air, less noise and a
greener city will give Copenhageners better daily lives and create more
The good news is that the investments will bring returns. Not just
in terms of a better climate, environment and improvement in the health of
Copenhagen’s citizens, but also in terms of hard cash. It is forecast that more
than a half of the investments put into improving the energy efficiency of
schools, cultural centers, residential homes and offices will be repaid through
operational savings by 2025.
Copenhageners can look forward to monthly
savings on their electricity and heating bills of the equivalent of $50 to $75.
And in a time of economic crisis, it should be mentioned that the investments
are creating jobs – and that the new solutions will create the foundation for a
strong green sector.
Some years ago, everybody talked about sharing
knowledge. And it is true that cities all over the world can and should learn
from each other. But we must be more ambitious than that; we should transfer
actual solutions from one city to another. There is no need to reinvent the
wheel in every city.
Copenhagen has gained knowledge and ideas from a
range of other capitals, including London, Hamburg and Amsterdam. The Copenhagen
approach has been to go beyond products and describe the solutions. Rather than
focusing on technology – pipes, pumps, wires, software etc. – the focus has been
on the combination of political vision, technology, organization and
Just as Copenhagen has benefited from initiatives in other
major cities, it is now our ambition that the solutions we develop and test in
Copenhagen will benefit many cities around the world that are seeking solutions
to how energy consumption and CO2 emissions can be reduced, and the environment
improved. It is a fact that the world’s cities account for 80 percent of global
In the final analysis, the transition to a green economy
will only succeed if it is commercially sustainable. Going green must pay
off. That is a basic idea behind Copenhagen’s ambitious project. But also on a
global scale we believe that the industrial transition to a green economy has
the potential to create new growth engines and spur global economic
Faced with this challenge, the Danish government, in cooperation
with the governments of Mexico and the Republic of Korea, has launched a major
international initiative called Global Green Growth Forum (3GF). The aim of the
Forum is to facilitate and accelerate the global transition to a green economy –
the next industrial revolution – by bridging the gap between policy, capital,
business and technology. 3GF offers a unique space to spur creative
public-private solution-oriented thinking and action in key areas for green
growth such as energy, water, finance, trade, biomass, cities and green public
As public and private sector partners intersect in their
varied interests in green growth, new opportunities and ways of collaborating
are emerging. The potential benefits are legion. If we find the right buttons to
press in bringing business and governments together to identify not only the
barriers but also the solutions, a renewed impulse in the green transition could
We have a shared responsibility to ensure a global green
transition. Political leaders, municipalities and corporations share the task of
creating the new smart growth strategy which will ensure that jobs and growth
can go hand in hand with green development.
Frank Jensen is the Lord
Mayor of Copenhagen and Pia Olsen Dyhr is the Minister for Trade and Investment.