Denmark Wants To Lead The World In Green Growth

Jul 12, 2017
Originally published on July 12, 2017 6:30 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement because he said the deal was bad for the American economy. Many other countries take the opposite view, Denmark among them. While America backs out, Denmark has been going all in, working to position itself as a global leader in green growth. Here's reporter Sidsel Overgaard.

SIDSEL OVERGAARD, BYLINE: Not long after Trump took office, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen emerged from a meeting with the president, all smiles, as he debriefed the Danish press at the White House.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRIME MINISTER LARS LOKKE RASMUSSEN: (Through interpreter) I experienced a president who was really interested in what I had to say. I told him how Denmark has made a transition to green that goes hand in hand with growth. And he listened carefully.

OVERGAARD: That optimism may seem ironic, given subsequent developments. But his focus on the business of climate change was no surprise. A recent report by the Cleantech Group and World Wildlife Fund named Denmark as the country most likely to succeed in commercializing clean technology.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It was the oil crisis in the '70s that triggered our green transition. We began to invest in renewable energy and focus on energy efficient solutions to become independent of imported oil.

OVERGAARD: That's a promotional video by State of Green, a unique public-private entity whose main purpose is to market Danish green solutions.

IVER HOJ NIELSEN: One of the things that some people started experimenting with in the '70s was wind power.

OVERGAARD: Iver Hoj Nielsen is with State of Green.

NIELSEN: And what you see today is that wind power is a global industry, which has, I think, millions of employees on a global scale. So it's just 40 years that has created this. The main secret is the trust between the private sector and the public sector.

OVERGAARD: Nielsen says government regulation has actually spurred commercial innovation. And public investment has encouraged companies that are now global leaders in wind power and energy efficiency.

NIELSEN: I won't say that the industry hasn't protested now and again. But eventually, they've accepted it. Because of the demands from the public sector, the private sector have developed new solutions that are really competitive on the global scale because they're ahead of the pack.

OVERGAARD: State of Green is focused on exports. But Denmark's clean reputation is also attracting the eye of investors.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONSTRUCTION MACHINERY)

OVERGAARD: Here in the windswept Danish countryside, outside the city of Viborg, Apple has started construction on an enormous data center.

KRISTIAN BRONS: It is going to take about 3 percent of the electricity in the whole Denmark. So it's not just a little.

OVERGAARD: But that electricity will be 100 percent renewable, says Viborg's chief investment officer Kristian Brons. That's a big attraction for Apple, which likes to present itself as a green company. And there's even a bonus. Because most of Denmark's houses are connected to centralized district heating systems, the waste heat from Apple's servers could keep up to 150,000 Danes warm through the winter.

BRONS: There's enough heat for three cities as big as Viborg.

OVERGAARD: Apple is not the only global corporation interested in Denmark's clean energy. Facebook is also building a data center here. And Google has purchased land that could be used for the same purpose. Of course, these data centers mean Denmark will need even more sources of clean energy to meet its goal of being independent of fossil fuels by 2050. But turning back is not an option, says Viborg's chief of business, Anders Holm.

ANDERS HOLM: You can have a Paris agreement or not. But money talks, as they say.

OVERGAARD: And Denmark is listening. For NPR News, I'm Sidsel Overgaard in Denmark.

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