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Tale om ”Green Growth and Low Carbon Development”

Udviklingsministerens tale ”Green Growth and Low Carbon Development” på UNEP Risø seminar den 4. november 2011.

Thank you for the introduction and thank you for the opportunity to speak at this “20 years anniversary seminar” today.

I took up my position as Danish Minister for Development Cooperation only a month ago. But the UNEP Risoe Centre has been known to me for years. I have found inspiration and received input from the Centre on many occasions – most lately in my role as Special Advisor for Commissioner Connie Hedegaard. And I know that I, and the new Danish government, will find a lot of inspiration and receive strong input from the centre in the future as well.

Indeed, the Centre has managed to establish itself as a well known and credible institution, recognised for its considerable expertise and capacities on energy and climate related issues. The Centre plays a role in political debates and influence policy decisions globally. This is quite an achievement.

Therefore, I will first and foremost like to congratulate the UNEP Risoe Centre and note least Hans Larsen and John Christensen, on the 20 year anniversary. I am pleased to note how well the partnership between the Danish Government, UNEP and the Danish Technical University, has played out during the years. A partnership that has developed and promoted new solutions for climate, energy and sustainable development in countries, and many poor countries, all over the world.

When the UNEP Risoe centre was established 20 years ago, the International Panel on Climate Change had just released its first assessment report. A lot has been achieved in these 20 years. But there is still very far to go before we have met the hopes and aspirations behind the centre.

As I speek, in a village somewhere in Africa, a mother and her children will be using hours to collect firewood so that they can prepare a meal for tonight. When they return home they will work hard for yet more hours inside a smoke filled hut with potential damaging health impacts.  If the children go to school - and more and more of them luckily do get to school - they may try to do their homework using the dim light from a paraffin wax candle.

This family face significant barriers and risks in their attempt to escape poverty and illiteracy. Barriers and risks related to lack of access to modern energy sources. And they are not alone. Out of the worlds population, one out of five have no access to electricity and two out of five use cooking and heating methods similar to this family. Think about the time wasted, the risk to the women and children, the depletion of forests, the health impacts, the emissions. If we can solve this problem, we can solve a lot of problems at the same time.

And the solutions are there. Energy efficient light bulps. Improved cooking stoves. Mini-grid and off-grid solutions for the provision of electricity. Solutions that do not only provide access to energy but also employment and growth.
This is why we must promote the goal of Universal Access to Modern Energy Services. And make it a goal of not only universal access to reliable and affordable energy sources but also access to clean, climate-friendly and sustainable energy sources. It can be done. The investments needed to provide universal access to energy have been estimated to be only 3 percent of total global energy investments. More new household electricity connections were made in the 1990s than would be required in each of the next two decades to achieve universal access. 

Universal access to modern, clean and reliable energy should be part of a new global set of Sustainable Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals have engaged and unified the world in a historic effort to reduce poverty, hunger and disease, to promote education, maternal health and gender equality and to improve biodiversity and access to water. The goals have created progress, new optimism and hope – although much needs to be done. However, in only a few years we will pass the deadline for achieving the goals. This calls for a renewed urgency in doing so. But it also means that the Rio-20 conference next year is the right time and place to discuss new and more ambitious goals beyond 2015.

Agreeing on new Sustainable Development Goals must not reduce our ambitions for 2015, and  must certainly not sideline the current Millenium Development Goals. On the contrary they should stand firmly on the platform of progress created by the MDGs and extend the effort and increase our ambition when it comes to eradicating hunger and poverty. We must, however, also recognise the challenges we face in an increasingly climate-constrained world and ensure a pathway towards a low carbon agenda. Extending the current development goals with new goals on access to modern, clean and reliable energy and goals on energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources can take us in the this direction. I know the the UN and the UNEP Center share this ambition. I believe it can be done.

Donella Meadows, who died all too early of meningitis 10 years ago, became famous as the lead author of the book The Limits to Growth in 1972 – soon 40 years ago. This book was by many seen as a doomsday scenario of humanity being on a unsustainable collision course with the laws of physics, mathematics, and biology and predicting that we would, if we did nothing, within about a hundred years, exceed nature's or society's limits and run off the proverbial cliff, just as did the civilizations of Rome and Easter Island.

However, importantly Donella Meadows believed that humanity was capable of waking up to our dilemma, and taking action to avoid catastrophe. And it is encouraging that many of the gloomy predictions by Limits to Growth have not yet materialised. Humanity has taken action.

Technological progress has in many ways been much faster than anyone could predict when the UNEP centre started 20 years ago. At that time almost nobody new of computers, mobile phones, the internet and cheap and efficient solar panels where only in the dreams of engineers and inventors.

I also have a personal relation to the impressive technological development in renewable energy solutions. When I was young in the mid-1980ties, my father bought one of the first new Danish Windmills, Nordtank, with this circular tower and it had a capacity of 55 KW. Today companies in Denmark and China produce windmills that have a capacity 100 times larger and there are thousands of them all over the world. It is not enough – but for sure it is encouraging.

While we recognise the limits to the present growth patterns we must and should, therefore, believe that Green and Sustainable Growth is possible and doable. A green growth strategy aim at creating welfare while increasing resource efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And the same multiple-win situation that I described with the woman African farmer, is found for societies as a whole. Green and Sustainable Growth contributes to higher resource efficiency, job creation, revenue generation, increased innovation and opens access to new markets. These strategies are not only good for the climate but essential for reinventing our stagnant economies.

Many major economies – industrialised as well as emerging – have started the transition to more green and sustainable economies and there are plenty of good practices to share. We should aim to make most use of these experiences. Examples from e.g.  China, South Korea, South Africa and Brazil could be used to inspire action in other regions. Indeed it is encouraging that China - only a few decades ago a country with widespread poverty - is now the worlds largest producer of windmills and solar panels. South Korea used more than 80% of the financial stimulus package back in 2009 in support of a greener economy.

The EU is also taking the lead with the EU 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth with a low carbon economy at the heart of it. The new Danish Government has set out ambitious goals for Denmark: We want Denmark to be independent of fossil fuels by 2050. We want to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gasses by 40% by 2020. We want to ensure that all of our electricity and heat consumption is covered by renewable energy in 2035.

Also, the Danish Government has set aside a special climate envelope of half a billion Danish kroner annually as our contribution to the internationally agreed climate finance. And we are working on establishing a climate investment fund as well to promote energy investments by Danish Companies in developing countries.

The private sector is key. It will have to deliver 80% of total investments needed to make the transition to a low carbon economy happen at a global scale. That is why we need stronger engagement from business and investors in the green growth agenda. Establishment of public-private partnerships are important to promote solutions which can lead to green growth and a green economy.

This is also why the Danish government has taken the initiative to create a public-private partnership between progressive governments and global corporations called the Global Green Growth Forum – or 3GF. The Forum met in Copenhagen this October and brought together 200 key politicians, business leaders, major investors and experts from 27 countries. The Forum launched a number of concrete public-private actions to give scope and speed to the green economic transition. I thank UNEP for its important contribution to 3GF and Mr. Steiner in particular for his participation and useful contributions to the Forum. 

Also the promising cooperation with the Global Green Growth Institute in South Korea is an important step in this direction.

To get there must continue to push this agenda also at the international level and maintain a high level of ambition for a new climate agreement that shall last many years into the future.

That a green growth strategy can be implemented and at the same time create welfare and reduce poverty must be a joint ambition. This is what sustainable development is all about.

We must provide the evidence, scientific knowledge. We need to know what is working and what is not? What are the right technologies and instruments in different parts of the world? How do we best approach this to take the transition process to a large scale and a global level? To answer these questions, we need science. And this is why the work of the UNEP Risoe Centre, is so important. This is why this conference and your contributions are so important.

The UNEP Risoe Center has worked on this agenda for 20 years. I am confident, that the UNEP Risoe Center will give an important contribution in the future.

The work of the centre connects the poor African woman seeking for firewood with the solar cell producers in China and the people in Denmark who are building new zero-energy houses. What unites them is a desire for sustainable and green growth using clean and sustainable energy solutions and this very desire is what we can and should hope for and build upon.

I wish you a successful seminar today – and I look forward to work with all of you on promoting green growth and low carbon development in the future. And once again I would like to congratulate the UNEP Risoe Center on their 20 year anniversary. Very well done. Please do continue.  

Thank you.

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