10 September 2009: We have much to learn from Scandinavia

The Danish government has said that it will pay for poor nations, including the Maldives, to send people to the Copenhagen climate conference in December. This won’t be very expensive – €2.5 million. However, it has great symbolic significance, since the Maldives could well be submerged by rising sea levels, so is the most immediately threatened of any country.

More significant, in practical terms, should be a paper promised today by the European Commission on funding for developing countries to develop clean energy sources and deal with the unavoidable effects of climate change. Press reports suggest that the paper will say that developing countries will need €100bn annually by 2020. The Commission expects half of this to come from the carbon market and says that the EU should offer €15bn a year. The UK, Germany, the Netherlands and France would pay the bulk of this.

As well as the Danish announcement on paying for delegates, Norway and Sweden agreed this week to resurrect a longstanding plan for a joint green certificate scheme to support renewable energy. This scheme was first proposed in 2004, but has been mired in controversy ever since. The new scheme will include development of new transmission and distribution networks to cope with the expected increase in renewable electricity generation – which are essential to maximise renewable generation in Scandinavia and elsewhere in Europe.

Norwegian electricity comes almost entirely from hydropower and it is the world leader in ‘pumped storage’, which uses power to pump water back uphill so it can be released to generate power when needed. About half of Swedish electricity comes from renewables, with most of the rest from nuclear. Denmark does use fossil fuels, but led the world in offshore wind and gets over 13% of its electricity from wind. Scandinavian countries also recognise that energy means heat as well as electricity, so use extensive district heating networks and biomass (mostly in the form of waste wood) to heat their homes. In addition, they have led Europe in shifting taxation from desirable things like work and income, to undesirable things like pollution and waste. Of course, they aren’t perfect and need to do more. However, it’s a reason for optimism that Sweden presently holds the EU Presidency and that the December summit is in Denmark.


Leave a comment

(all comments are subject to moderation)

Comments are closed.