Sunday, June 23, 2024

What we Canadians can learn from the Danes

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This article was originally published by Inside Climate News and appears here as part of a collaboration with the Climate Desk.

Danish people understand this very well.

With walkable and bikeable cities, awe-inspiring natural beauty, and pastries you’ll want to eat all day long, this country is like a fantasy world.

I traveled there in August to see up close the implementation of ambitious climate change policies. The result is a story about a country where people largely agree on big things, such as the need for aggressive action to reduce emissions, but disagree on how to do it quickly. I did.

Here are some observations that did not make it into my talk.

Walking through the maze of Ørsted

I visited their headquarters in Ørsted, just outside Copenhagen, to learn more about this global wind energy company.

Orsted is one of Denmark’s most successful exporters, with offshore and onshore wind farms in Europe, the United States and Taiwan. The company evolved from a partially state-owned oil and gas company with the unfortunate name DONG, which stands for Dansk Olie og Naturgas, or Danish oil and natural gas.

The Ørsted complex showcased the warmth of Danish design with its wood tones and natural light.

What I learned about clean energy in Denmark. #Denmark #climatepolicy #cleanenergy #windenergy #EV #cleanenergyeconomy

What caught my eye was an exhibit written in white letters on a maze-like atrium with blue walls and an atrium.

“Find your way forward like this,” the words written near the entrance.

An Orsted spokesperson guided me to the display. It took about 1 minute. The document describes some of the steps to build a clean energy economy, including how governments can set up a system to subsidize specific amounts of electricity capacity.

The piece itself contains shortcuts and doors to move toward the end faster, a conceit that emphasizes the stakes of the company’s work. For example, there is a point where you can turn left and continue with a tightly controlled government process, or swing open his door with the text “Pushing forward to enable an industry-led green energy build-out.”

Orsted has installed a maze of displays in its Copenhagen office to tell the story that the transition to clean energy could move more quickly if companies could shorten some of the delays imposed by governments. Helpful. Credit: Dan Gearino/Inside Climate News

Orsted is not advocating for governments to remove themselves from the process, but he does advocate for governments to be flexible and move quickly to avoid projects getting bogged down in bureaucracy.

I was reminded of this labyrinth a few months later when Ørsted canceled plans for two offshore wind projects in New Jersey, citing rising costs. These projects suffered long delays in the U.S. government’s approval process, and while they waited, costs soared due to inflation and rising interest rates.

I don’t think this indication specifically refers to the problem in the US, as this type of delay occurs in many places. But what was clear was that the transition to clean energy could be made more efficient if the key players stayed out of the loop.

The rise of electric taxis

Whenever I called for a taxi or ride-share service during my stay, an electric car always came. I thought there was a government directive, but later realized it was indicative of the country’s widespread transition to EVs.

In practical terms, this meant we had to test drive (or at least “test drive”) some EVs that aren’t available in the U.S., including the spacious, smooth-handling Volkswagen ID.5 crossover .

Those working on climate change and energy policy say they consider the country’s transition to electric vehicles a success, but they have concerns. Denmark was slow to adopt EVs until 2021, when market share increased dramatically.

This differs from other aspects of tackling climate change, where Denmark has been years ahead of most other countries.

Denmark also struggles with comparisons with neighboring Norway, which is ahead of other countries in the transition to EVs. 91% of new cars and light trucks sold in Norway in October were plug-in vehicles. This was about twice Denmark’s share of 44%.

For comparison, the US share in the most recent quarter was less than 10%.

People who buy EVs in Denmark can enjoy significant discounts on vehicle registration fees, and there are other policies to encourage people to buy EVs. There are often deep discounts.

However, government policy does not fully explain the speed of Denmark’s transition to EVs.

When I walked on the sidewalk or rode in a car, I saw EVs running everywhere, and the noise of cars equipped with gasoline engines was noticeable. Rather than seeing gasoline as the default, people who live here will see EVs as the normal and preferred option.

What sacrifices will you need to make?

Denmark is a small and wealthy country, ranking among the top 10 in the world in terms of per capita income. (Denmark ranks her 9th, and the US ranks her 7th.)

High income allows for high levels of consumption. Some Danes argue that any serious effort to reduce emissions must include some reduction in consumption. That could mean households owning fewer cars, flying less and eating less meat.

Thiem van der Düre, a PhD student at the University of Copenhagen and an activist with Extinction Rebellion and Scientist Rebellion, said: “I wish everyone in the world could live like the Danes.” “There is,” he said. “But that’s not possible. There’s not enough out there.”

Thiem van der Duerre is a university student and climate change activist who wants Danes to consume less. Credit: Dan Gearino/Inside Climate News

We met at a coffee shop in Copenhagen, Café Melemlmet.

His criticism of Danish consumption contradicts some of the fundamentals on which the country’s people agreed to work together to reduce emissions.

Much of Denmark’s climate success has resulted from close relationships between business and government. If governments start asking people to spend and consume less, many businesses will find this to be against their interests.

My sense from the interviews is that the idea of ​​cutting consumption is gaining traction, and some in political and business circles are seeing this and are concerned that it will lead to even more discord. ing.

As an outsider to Denmark, I can see how the criticism of consumption is hurting some vulnerable groups. Whether it’s a delicious pork roast, Tuborg beer or a wide variety of delicious pastries, consumption is part of Danish culture and that’s just food and drink.

That’s why van der Doule and others in his movement are working hard to get people to support the idea of ​​consuming less.

“It’s up to us to make the impossible seem possible, right?” he said.

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