Danish Environment Minister examines U.S.-EU climate change policy
On May 7, GMF hosted Connie Hedegaard, Danish Minister for Environment, for a roundtable lunch discussion entitled "Leading by Example: How Denmark is Showing Europe the Way to a Climate Friendly Economy." U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) provided follow-up comments with an American political perspective, leading to a discussion on how Europe can engage the United States at the international negotiating table.
Hedegaard provided an overview of Danish Climate policy, stressing that the country continues to have strong economic growth and record low unemployment while not having increased energy consumption in the country since the 1970s. They have achieved this through multiple strategies including a focus on efficiency, with strict building code regulations, innovations in technology, and heavy taxes on energy. Renewable sources of energy continually increase as a percentage of total Danish energy supply which is now up to nearly 16 percent. Businesses in Denmark are seizing on the economic opportunities presented in combating global warming with one Danish company, Vestas, producing one-third of the globe's wind mills.
Following her visit to GMF Hedegaard will meet with some of the key political leaders in the United States on this topic to examine more closely how Denmark and Europe can engage the United States on climate change negotiations.
Congressman Blumenauer took the opportunity to talk about some of the positive developments that are occurring in the United States, including city activity, specifically mentioning Mayor Bloomberg's far reaching environmental plans for New York City, and state-level initiatives on the coasts. He said that congress is slowly coming around, but remains very divided, and he hopes that eventually the United States might adopt policies tried out at the state level. Blumenauer also mentioned that he thought the Federal government itself should begin to adopt greenhouse gas reducing policies, such as requiring all new federal buildings to meet LEED building standards (the gold star for energy efficiency in buildings) and urging the purchase fuel efficient cars. He thought that the U.S. military could prove to be a very interesting partner, as they see the limitations and risks of being so heavily fossil fuel dependent.
Participants said that policy makers in the United States believe that European attempts (Emissions Trading Scheme) to reduce emissions are failing. It is very important that they hear the message that Europe will meet its reductions targets, and that Denmark is doing it with very low unemployment and a strong economy. The story of Vestas is very important for U.S. politicians to hear. They also expressed that it will be difficult for the U.S. to move internationally without Domestic policy in place. That sequence will be important to bear in mind from a European perspective. Some participants also expressed the need to focus on what is possible in the United States 18 months from now because the international community is not going to see any action from the current administration on climate change.