First report: Converting with care

26 november 2015

Denmark faces a historic green transition when we as the rest of the EU have to reduce the level of emissions of greenhouse gasses remarkably towards 2050. In its most recent report the Climate Council points focus towards a number of problems, which need to be solved in order to be able to reach climate targets while simultaneously keeping economic costs at their minimum. 

Towards 2050 Denmark faces a transition to a society in where the emissions of greenhouse gasses are at a very low level. The Climate Council has in its most recent report  Converting with care – status and challenges for Danish climate policy looked into how Denmark is positioned in the process of reaching our overall goal of being a low emission society, as well as what constitutes the most prominent challenges in the transition process in the years to come. On this background the Climate Council proposes a number of recommendations to secure a balanced and viable path for the green transition during the next 35 years.

“The Climate Council presents a report with analyses and recommendations regarding the political challenges that society faces in the green transition towards a low emission society. With current technologies at hand the analysis shows that Denmark is capable of becoming independent of fossil fuels, however it takes deliberate and careful planning, if societal costs are to be kept at a minimum,” says the chairman of the Climate Council Peter Birch Sørensen. 

The transition has to be sustainable 

The green transition to a society with very low levels of emissions calls for a profound extension of renewable energy sources and a comprehensive electrification of society. The analysis shows that a higher tempo in the expansion of renewable energy is needed in order to reach the target of 2050. It is however important to conduct a parallel process of electrification, if the green transition of society is to happen in such manner that we are able to make use of the green energy in an efficient way. 

Biomass will inevitably come to constitute an important factor in the future Danish energy system. However the Climate Council finds the continuous use of biomass for production of energy problematic, as this development mirror a great imbalance in the system of taxation, which will preclude that electrification of society that is needed to secure a cost-effective and coherent future energy system.

The increase in the use of renewable energy contributes to the fact that decentral combined heat and power stations in Denmark face severe economic challenges within the forthcoming years. The production of district heating on heat pumps is already today profitably and the need for power production on combined heat and power stations will therefore drop drastically as a consequence of the transition to power generated by renewable energy. In the future existing combined heat and power stations may work as back-up capacity in the power production, but it is essential to reconsider, whether it in the long-run will be more expedient to invest in different types of production plants. 

Denmark is on the right track, but not a far ahead of the game 

Denmark has a good point of departure to conduct a green transition of society and is on the right track when it comes to reaching its international climate goals for 2020. At the same time it is however clear that an increased effort needs to be taken in order to reach the targets of 2030 as well as of 2050.

The Climate Council has analyzed the Danish Climate performance compared to the performance of comparable surrounding countries. The analysis shows that although Denmark has achieved a relatively high reduction of greenhouse gasses, then the reductions are predominantly driven by low economic growth and not by active climate policies. The Danish green transition is therefore not necessarily in the very front, as there is often a broad perception of in the Danish public debate. The reality is more likely to be that Denmark is placed in the middle of a group of countries ambitious on the climate agenda.

Trustworthy goals are pivotal 

The Climate Council has analyzed the costs of fulfilling the national target of a 40% reduction of greenhouse gasses in 2020 compared to the level in 1990. The analysis shows that there is a socioeconomic advantage by maintaining the 40 % national target. 

Even though it is not fundamental, whether or not the reduction in 2020 is 37 % or 40 % for achieving the long-run target in 2050, the fulfilment of the 40 % target may strengthen the political credibility for the long-run climate goal in 2050. It may reinforce the trust among investors pursuing the long-run investments that are needed for accomplishing the 2050 target of a low emission society. 

The main conclusions and recommendations in the first report from the Climate Council Converting with care may be downloaded in the menu.