This speech was written for Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Building Martin Lidegaard to be delivered at workshop on Environment and Climate Change in Bukarest, Romania April 19 2013. It was published in Vital Speeches International July 2013.
You can also read my storify about the research and afterlife of the speech here – at Behind the Living Fire.
A Green Glow to the Land of the Living Fire
Thank you for inviting me to speak here today. It is a pleasure to be in the land of the living fire – the “focul viu” .
I am here to ask you to let that fire light the path to a green and prosperous energy future for Romania. In your country the effects of a warming climate are felt with extreme floods and droughts leading to bad harvests for farmers and rising costs of food for consumers. The future will likely make such extreme weather events more frequent with climate change affecting the entire watershed of the Danube River, changing the conditions – most significantly here in the delta – with severe economic consequences.
We are on a trajectory to a catastrophic 3.5 degree Celsius increase in global temperature. If we keep sitting on our hands the increase will be an unthinkable 6 degrees, which will cause irreversible damage to our climate, our living conditions and our economies. That goes for Romania – that goes for Denmark – and that goes for the rest of the world. At the same time energy consumption is predicted to rise by one third during the next 25 years while the extraction of oil from known fields is going the other way. Prices will most likely rise and certainly fluctuate more making it hard for businesses to plan and even harder to create growth. It is time for action!
As a European Union and global community we find ourselves at a crossroads…
We can choose to do nothing and hope for the best or we can take destiny into our own hands and do something. The reason why I stand here in front of you today is because I want to tell about the journey that my own country, Denmark, has started – and that may be an inspiration to you.
In Denmark we have chosen the road to a fossil fuel free energy system in 2050 – a system based on renewable energy and high energy efficiency. And the reason is very simple: It is possible to make a transition to a green economy in a sound economic manner. In fact, it is a good investment. The transition to a green and efficient energy system has several advantages:
- Renewable energy will deliver predictable and steady prices for consumers.
- Using the energy available locally and using it efficiently will create local jobs and local development – right here in Romania – instead of giving our money to others in return for their energy.
- And energy efficiency means that you will harvest the cheapest energy available – the energy you don’t use at the moment – with only a short-term investment.
One, you may ask yourselves why should we be in such a hurry? And why should Romania, Denmark or the EU take the lead? Two thirds of the energy capacity needs to be replaced over next two decades. We need a plan. Denmark has a long tradition for ambitious energy targets, and a consensus-based approach to energy politics in parliament. This means that industry and investors trust the goals of government – such as the political goal of a low-carbon future. Thereby we limit the political risk and make energy sector investments easy for institutional investors and others planning for the long term. It also provides transparency and predictability allowing for industry and business to invest in the long term.
Two, you may also ask yourselves: Is this terribly expensive? And what are the social costs? The expansion of renewable energy and energy efficiency goes hand-in-hand with economic growth.
Since 1980, the Danish economy has grown by almost 80 %, while our energy consumption has remained more or less constant and CO2-emissions have been reduced. Our electricity prices are below the European average even though renewable energy now covers almost 20 % of our total consumption of energy and 40 % of our electricity production.And the most recent Energy Agreement in Denmark will reduce the Danish greenhouse gas emissions by 34 % in 2020. By 2035 the electricity and heat production should rely 100 % on renewable energy.
By setting clear targets and using coherent regulation we provide industry and investors with an edge on the global competition, saving energy and creating local jobs. Just last week, Vestas Wind Power announced that they will bring even more wind power to Romanians on a contract with Lukerg Renew. They plan to go from 60 to 200 local staff by 2014 while cooperating to train even more in the industry. In Denmark, we have become a trial market for new products and services – a global sand box for energy development, and Danish companies have become market leaders especially in second generation bio-fuels and wind power.
Now, was Denmark somehow in a more favourable position for a green transition? Or is this an opportunity for other countries as well? I often hear politicians say: OUR challenges are unique and extraordinary. We can’t do what you did. But actually Romania is on its way to do just that. And Romania, you are perfectly suitable for this: Denmark has no hydro power potential, only little biomass resources available and a national context that is not especially favourable to renewable energy. But you have. You installed 2.000 MW during the last three years.
The next level is:
- Strong interconnectors with neighbouring countries
- Careful analyses and long term planning – and coherent policy development
- Muster political will as well.
Both Romania and Denmark has embarked on a journey. Such a journey will inevitably pose many questions along the way. We could all return to the path of fossil fuel addiction, but the gains of a green transition are all too clear: Improved security of supply and steady consumer prices. Potential for economic growth and job creation. An honest contribution to the global challenge of limiting climate change
In February, Romania and Denmark signed a Joint Statement on Green Growth. We emphasized the importance of cooperation – and acknowledged that the green transition contributes to growth and job creation. Others realize this as well. My Ministry has recently established a Low Carbon Transition Unit that assists growth economies like China and South Africa in making the transition to renewable energy by drawing on the experiences from Denmark. We want to share our best practices as much as we can.
Romania has a tradition of supporting climate change legislation – from UNFCCC to the Kyoto protocol. We acknowledge that Romania is first among peers and a leading wind market in Eastern Europe. Yet when the crisis hits we are shaken. This is only natural. It is in times like these that we must huddle – stay far-sighted – and help each other reach our common goals. With the support from the European Union, full participation in the European energy market and increased use of available EU funds, I believe that Romania can reap the gains of the green transition through careful investments. By doing that we will be known as the generation that made a bold choice, acted in time and took the road towards preserving our prosperity – and the climate for future generations.
If we can’t do it, it can’t be done. It is a road that leads to predictability in the energy markets, increased European energy independence and creates local jobs and development. I wish Romania the best of luck on your journey to a clean, cheap and steady energy supply in the decades to come.