Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 6 December 2019

Hitting climate target like landing man on the moon, says Danish ambassador to UAE

Envoy said the country wants to take a giant leap forward in its bid to protect the planet

Mette Frederiksen, Denmark's new Prime Minister, has set ambitious climate change targets. AP
Mette Frederiksen, Denmark's new Prime Minister, has set ambitious climate change targets. AP

A “bright green” economy can be achieved without compromising quality of life, Denmark’s ambassador to the UAE said.

Denmark’s new leader, Mette Frederiksen, 41, has made addressing climate change a top priority since her election in June, when she became the country’s youngest prime minister.

She quickly secured an agreement with the Nordic nation’s other left-wing parties to reduce emissions by 70 per cent by 2030.

The target is so ambitious that “nobody has a clue” how it will be achieved in full, envoy Franz-Michael Skjold Mellbin admitted.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Franz-Michael Skjold Mellbin, Danish ambassador at the Embassy of Denmark in Abu Dhabi. Khushnum Bhandari for The National
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Franz-Michael Skjold Mellbin, Danish ambassador at the Embassy of Denmark in Abu Dhabi. Khushnum Bhandari for The National

He said the country’s environmental goals have been likened to John F Kennedy’s vow to the US Congress in 1961 that the country would put a man on the Moon before the decade was out.

“We had a true climate election – climate was the most important issue,” he said.

“It is such an ambitious goal that, technically, it is understood how a country like Denmark can achieve 60 per cent by 2030, if we go all in, but nobody knows how to achieve the last 10 per cent.

“Our minister for climate, who was here for the UN meeting we had in Abu Dhabi recently, said to me it is like the Moon landing, when Kennedy said within 10 years the US will land a man on the Moon. When he said that, nobody actually understood how, but they did it. Our government has the same attitude.

“We are small actors in the global scale of things. So we need to inspire others to take the same steps.”

The solution lies in the widespread electrification of transport, heating and cooling systems, the ambassador said.

Energy storage systems that do not yet exist, allowing power generated from renewables to be reliably supplied even when the wind is not blowing or the Sun is obscured, are likely to be the final piece of the puzzle.

The country is also planning a renewable energy island in the North Sea, which Mr Mellbin said could produce power equivalent to that of six nuclear plants.

And it can be achieved without members of the public compromising their standards of living – for example by taking fewer flights, he said.

“Are we going to punish the poor?” he said. “There is no price point they can find that will inhibit me from flying, that’s the truth of the matter.

“In Denmark, we have this expression, ‘we don’t want a dark green future, we want a bright green future’. There is an ongoing discussion in the world about this, and a lot of people are advocating a dark green future, ‘we have to stop doing this, stop doing that, do less of x, y, z’.

“But if we do things in a smarter way we can do more and still be climate friendly.

“In the 1970s in Denmark when we wanted to build more energy-efficient homes, we made the windows smaller. But windows affect quality of life, having a big window pane to your garden so you can see the plants outside. Now we have triple glazing – problem solved.”

Updated: July 31, 2019 04:16 PM

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