As I noted in earlier posts about the Danish government’s plan to phase out diesel and gas cars by 2030, a full plan for emission reductions over the next 12 years would be revealed this week. And indeed it was. The plan is called “Together for a greener future.” This plan is the second of two parts. The first part was the “Energy — for a green Denmark” which was boosted considerably in the rare consensus by all parties in parliament in July where for instance the plans for adding 8 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind power was tripled to 24 GW.
If you are the little guy, speak up!
While Denmark is a pretty insignificant country in the scale of things, it was actually quite an achievement to reach bipartisan agreements on upping the game as opposed to the more common dismantling. I remember that Thomas L. Friedman played with an idea in his 2008 book “Hot, Flat and Crowded” where he imagined the US being China for just one day and how that could make so many rules come into effect, fast. Well, the current president is trying to do just that, but unfortunately he has yet to push rules on avoiding catastrophic climate change. My point is that it was very refreshing to witness this consensus in July, and it should serve as an example to countries with much bigger impact.
Too little too late?
However, I am afraid we wasted a lot of time. This new plan has come to the table very late in the game. This plan should have been implemented in 2009 when Copenhagen was host for the COP15 summit. We all know how that went… But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, and let’s look at the plan itself.
First, a quick quote from the press release:
The climate and air proposal bears the title “Together for a greener future,” calling on all Danes to come together and embrace a shared responsibility for our planet. The proposal takes shape through 38 concrete initiatives to ensure cleaner transport in cities and the countryside, efficient and modern agriculture, more environmentally friendly shipping, and a green transition in housing and industry.
Of the 38 proposals I have compiled the following:
In the year 2030, the last diesel and gasoline powered car will have been sold, and in 2035 the last plug-in hybrid will have had its time in the spotlight. All cars sold beyond that will be zero-emission cars, and in their base form that means electric, no matter the origin of the electricity, as long as no carbon is added to the atmosphere in the process. To kick-start the process, it is decided that in 2019 and 2020 there will be no tax on electric vehicles up to DKK 400,000 ($62,000 — though when you account for import tariffs and VAT it reflects a US base price of $40,000).
The target is 1 million electric vehicles (including plug-in hybrids) on the Danish roads by 2030. This is less radical than some other countries, but it’s just another government underlining the obvious: The internal combustion engine is dying, fast.
Quote from the plan:
Today the state has a solid source of revenue from taxes on registering cars, owning cars, fueling cars, etc. accumulating private motoring taxes of about DKK 50 billion ($776 million) each year, 5% of the state’s total revenue.
This huge revenue is at jeopardy, and therefore a commission will be put in place to figure out what can replace it. That’s a tough one…
Taxis have to be zero-emission from 2030 onward, and to accelerate this, any taxi license based on a zero-emission vehicle will be guaranteed, starting in 2019.
New buses has to be carbon neutral (biofuel) starting in 2020. New buses must be zero-emission in cities starting in 2025. And eventually all new buses has to be zero-emission starting in 2030.
On all state roads in the country (3,800 km, 2360 miles) a new low-resistance (and low-noise) asphalt will be used for road repair and new segments.
As a member of UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Denmark will continue the work in reducing sulfur in fuels, and carbon emissions in general.
Quote from the plan:
In April 2018, IMO adopted its first strategy for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from shipping. The strategy includes a long term goal of greenhouse gas emissions reduced by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels, and in the short term shipping must reduce emissions by at least 40% per ton of freight goods by 2030 compared to 2008 levels. In addition, the strategy includes a vision to phase out all emissions from shipping as soon as possible in this century.
Denmark is a small voice in this regard, but because of the country’s geographical location and relatively large shipping industry, the voice is heard.
Modern and effective agriculture
No revolutionary reductions are planned for agriculture, but one interesting aspect is in play: Precision farming.
Quote from the plan:
Precision farming can combine higher yields and lower greenhouse gas emissions. The government will therefore, promote precision farming where high-tech solutions like sensors and GPS data can optimize cultivation.
This industry is actually booming these years, with companies like Ecobotix (drones) and Agrointelli (autonomous tractors) achieving incredible things. Combined with a focus on the principles of permaculture and reduced soil cultivation, this could be huge.
Clean air and low emissions from industry and housing
The work in reducing the use of oil and natural gas for heating is linked to the overall plan to reach a fully renewable energy system by 2050. No more fossil fuels means just that: No more fossil fuels. The government thinks Denmark has the technology to show for it.
Quote from the plan:
Many Danish companies are among the world’s leading when it comes to developing, delivering, and applying solutions to reduce air pollution. In 2016, Danish companies exported DKK 7.3 billion ($1.1 billion) worth of clean air solutions to the global markets. But we can do even better. The government therefore has launched the Clean Air vision in cooperation with the industry. The goal is clear: to double exports of clean air technologies by 2030 and make Denmark a global showcase for clean air solutions.
On solid fuel furnaces, trade-in schemes to upgrade furnaces to newer low-particulate generations will be put in place.
There is not so much on energy efficiency in terms of insulation of the older building mass, even though significant emission reduction might be found in this area.
Carbon capture initiatives
In this regard, it is important to note that forestry is included. And since this area is notoriously controversial in terms of what is feasible, some resources will be placed in research and analysis of CO2 uptake in the environment.
Quote from the plan:
The government will host a conference on CO2 uptake and CO2 storage in November 2018. Here, experts and decision makers will be brought together to explore further action in this area. The conference will affect both the technological and the biological methods available for uptake and storing of CO2.
The Danish government has joined the global Carbon Neutrality Coalition with the goal of reaching global carbon emission neutrality no later than 2050.
The end game
Apart from all of the above there will be nudging the public behavior, cancellation of CO2 cap-and-trade emission allowances, commissions overseeing progress, and climate labeling on foods, goods, and services.
Minister for Energy, Utilities and Climate, Lars Christian Lilleholt:
Denmark must remain a world leader in green initiatives. By setting new climate and environment standards, we inspire others to take action and help shape developments in Europe and around the world. With the climate and air proposal ‘Together for a greener future’, the Government takes the next step towards a Denmark where the air is clean, and where we will eventually reduce our negative climate impact to zero.
Good. This is not a bad plan as such. But I wonder what zero impact on the climate will mean on a climate that has run amok? What good will it do to not emit a single molecule of carbon dioxide or methane by 2050 if the global average temperature has passed the absolute lower threshold of 2 degrees Celsius?
For too long we have discussed emission reductions. Anyone waiting anxiously to read the latest climate assessment report from IPCC will probably find that we are way past the zero emissions planning era and right in the middle of the negative emission planning era.
This is not to discourage anyone. I mean, if you are headed for the edge of a cliff that suddenly emerged out of the fog, you don’t waste time calculating if you can bring your vehicle to a full stop in time. No, you just slam on the brakes! And if your front wheels go beyond the edge, you reverse at full power!
By the way, listen to these chums, who had all the time in the world:
BP chief executive Bob Dudley speaking at the Oil & Money Conference October 11, 2018:
Like many of you here today, I’m an engineer by training. We are, by nature, problem-solvers. I’m confident our industry can continue to help power the world, lift people out of poverty, and keep society advancing – while, at the same time, contribute to dramatically reducing emissions to meet the Paris goals. So long as we choose the path of collaboration and innovation over the path of division and exclusion, both our industry and the world have a great future ahead.
Volkswagen chief Herbert Diess to Süddeutsche Zeitung (via Kyle Fields article here on CleanTechnica):
We as the car industry reacted too late. The transformation in speed and impact is almost impossible to manage. Such an industry can crash faster than many believe.
Makes you feel much better doesn’t it?
All images from Danish Ministry of Energy, Utilities and Climate