40th World Environment Day: Denmark, Scotland Pave the Way to the Green Economy

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Photo courtesy: Rene Seindal

Yesterday, June 5, marked the 40th anniversary of the United Nations Environment Programme’s World Environment Day. With this year’s theme being “The Green Economy,” one has to take a look at Europe, which has been blazing a green economy trail for others to follow.

Italy, Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic — substantial gains in forging a green economy have been made across Europe. Denmark and Scotland stand out when it comes to reducing the environmental impact of their economic activities, whether they originate on the production or consumption side of the ledger.
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Denmark’s Parliament at the end of March passed legislation that established two of the most ambitious renewable energy targets of any nation: 35% by 2020 and 100% by 2050. Wind energy currently supplies 25% of Denmark’s electricity, and it’s expected to supply 50% by 2020 The remainder is to come from a mix of renewable heat, smart grid, biogas and other green technologies.

West across the North Sea, Scotland’s made even greater gains, and plans to go Denmark one better in the coming decade. Renewable electricity accounted for more than 1/3 of Scotland’s gross domestic consumption last year, exceeding an ambitious 31% target. Moreover, Scotland’s on pace to meet 100% of electricity demand from renewable resources by 2020 and still produce a surplus for export.

Blazing a Trail to the Green Economy

Announcing passage of the bill, Denmark’s Minister for Climate, Energy and Building (Geez, do you think they’re taking this green economy thing seriously?), Martin Lidegaard, stated, “Denmark will once again be the global leader in the transition to green energy. This will prepare us for a future with increasing prices for oil and coal. Moreover, it will create some of the jobs that we need so desperately, now and in the coming years.”

Scotland’s Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson struck a similar chord while adding an environmental justice aspect to green economy initiatives as he was joined in World Environment Day celebrations by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, ClickGreen reported.

“The topic of this year’s World Environment Day could not be more apt for Scotland. The low carbon economy offers a huge opportunity for us, creating tens of thousands of jobs and reindustrializing our economy,” he stated. “As we create green jobs at home we are helping other countries develop renewable energy, and also tackling the devastating impact of climate change on the world’s poorest. It is a joined up vision we can be proud of and one which other countries should take note.”

“The renewables industry already supports more than 11,000 jobs across Scotland and plans to install up to 10 Gigawatts of offshore wind generating capacity in Scottish waters are predicted to generate around £30 billion ($46.44 billion) of investment by 2020 and to directly employ up to 28,000 people…. The emerging wave and tidal energy industry, where up to 1.6 GW of capacity is planned for the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters, is predicted to create several thousand more renewables jobs.”

Scotland has already granted licenses to develop offshore wind, wave and tidal energy farms with a total planned capacity of 11GW by 2020. Aggressively ramping up domestic renewable energy capacity is seen as the means to avoiding ongoing escalation of electricity costs. Reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels could lead to average 2020 household energy bills being lowered to a projected £1,285 as opposed to £1,379, according to a study by the UK Dept. of Energy and Climate Change.

Scottish leaders are also committed to assuring that the gains to be realized from building green economies are realized equitably between and across societies. Last week, Ministers Salmond and Stevenson were joined by former UN Human Rights High Commissioner Mary Robinson in launching the multimillion British pound Climate Justice Fund. The fund will help finance climate change adaptation and renewable energy projects in some of the world’s most impoverished communities. Its initial focus will be on water-related projects in Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda and Zambia.

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