Vores arbejde: Landbrug og vand

Instruments for resource efficiency – Denmark

Reply to questionnaire from Cowi – for report to the EU commission

1.    Among the largest resource efficiency problems in Denmark are
a.    Too high consumption of fossil fuels and too high CO2-emission
b.    Too high use of other material resources and too high production of waste
c.    A very intensive agriculture mainly based on animal products and too high consumption of meat.
Re a) The government is proud that Denmark has decoupled CO2-emissions from GDP-growth, but this is to a great extent due to the fact that production of the goods we consume has moved to Asia. Among the largest emitters of CO2 are buildings and traffic. Danes have on an average many square meters of living area, and the majority of existing buildings need energy renovation – the latter is a common problem in most countries. The energy standard of Danish buildings is not among the worst, but it is combined with the many square meters. Denmark has much car driving – like other countries. We have – together with Netherlands – the largest share of bicycling in Europe, and among the OECD-countries. But on the other hand the Danish public transportation system is not among the best.
Re b) The amount of waste is still growing – here decoupling has failed. The largest contributions come from construction, industry and households. Denmark recycles around 65% of the waste (on a weight basis), but this to a large extent due to construction waste. Much more could be done for other waste categories.
Re c) Different statistics give different results, but no doubt the Danes have a very high consumption of meat compared to the global average, and also higher than neighbor countries like Sweden and Germany.

2.     Government response
The government is not responding effectively towards these challenges. In the 1990’ies a strategy of green tax reform was started, but it stopped at the change of government in 2001, and the value of the green taxes deteriorated due to a tax stop. From 2007 indexing of energy taxes was reintroduced, but the reduction from the 6 years past was not compensated. And the green tax reform strategy has not been developed further. The high registration tax is still keeping the car ownership lower than in the neighbor countries. But during the latest decades the price of driving a car has decreased remarkably compared to the price of public transportation. And the Danes are driving relatively many kilometers in their car, in spite of the size of the country.
Relatively high taxes on energy consumption in households are motivating for conservation, but this is not the case for industry and services, where the taxes are much lower. Stronger incentives are needed to make owners of buildings invest in energy renovation. This applies to private houses as well as business and public institutions. The government has introduced funding for renovation of houses, but it is not targeted to energy renovation. In 2009 the government for the first time supported introduction of road pricing, but at the same time it decided that it would wait for the implementation in the Netherlands – which then was given up. The government is not willing to introduce more simple solutions like congestion charging and a simple driving tax, while waiting for road pricing. Therefore nothing happens. The government has raised speed limits at many highways from 110 to 130 km per hour – leading to increasing CO2-emissions.

3.    How does Denmark perform?
Climate: Progress is too slow, and Denmark will only meet its Kyoto target in 2012 by using a large share of flexible mechanisms
Biodiversity: Too weak regulation of especially agriculture. Much marginal (low) land should be taken out of intensive cultivation, and we need a stronger action plan for pesticide reduction. Denmark can not apply to the water framework directive in 2015 and has asked for postponement.
Environment and health: Air pollution is among the largest problems. The EU limit values are exceeded, especially in Copenhagen. Environmental zones have been introduced in the largest cities. But we need to add demands for particle filters also for newer diesel vehicles, and demands for NOx-reduction – combined with congestion charging.
Natural resources and waste: A green tax reform would also help here – combined with fiscal incentives for repare of broken goods and for recycling initiatives.

4.    How do the sectors perform?
Energy: Denmark is performing better than most countries on wind energy, but lacking behind neighbor countries on biogas, solar energy etc. Energy conservation is better than the average, but not strong enough in relation to Denmark’s high CO2-emission
Households and industry is similar. Transport and agriculture, see above.

5.    Debates in Denmark
The debate is very much on green growth – whether we can establish a win-win strategy, where we reduce the environmental problems and at the same time create a stronger and more competitive industry. This debate is relatively strong on energy, but not so strong on agriculture. The companies producing green-tech for agriculture are not so big and influential.

Christian Ege
The Danish Ecological Council


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