Opening speech of Mr. Svend Auken, Danish Minister for the Environment

Introduction

Thanks to the UNEP Collaborating Centre on Energy and Environment for having arranged this Conference on National Action to Mitigate Global Climate Change, and for inviting me to open the Conference.

I was of course looking forward to meeting Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, and I ask Mr. Peter Usher to bring her my warmest regards.

With the entry into force of the Climate Convention, we no longer need to waste time and efforts to convince each other of the real threat of the greenhouse effect. Instead we can work to implement the Convention, by taking both political and technical actions to implement the long-term objectives of the Convention: stabilization of the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level preventing dangerous anthropogenic intervention in the climate system.

I do not hesitate to appoint this objective the biggest challenge of environmental policy the world has ever faced.

I see this Conference as a contribution to facing this challenge.

No country on our planet, and no group of countries can meet the challenge alone, all countries have to unite forces, each contributing their share.

The rich countries by realizing major reductions of emissions, and the developing countries by contributing in accordance with the Climate Convention, doing everything to ensure that their economies are to the extent possible developed on a sustainable basis.

One of the conditions for setting up the required cooperation between states is to provide openness, translated into national willingness to publish not only their emissions of greenhouse gases, but also their plans for or projections of the future development of emissions.

In my opinion the great mission of this Conference lies exactly in this objective.

I will not go into great lengths describing the problems we face in the European Union, agreeing on a common approach in the climate strategy, but only note that the 12 countries find it very difficult to agree on common approaches to national mitigation analyses.

In the papers presenting this Conference, the organizers note that the Conference is expected to identify common approaches to national mitigation analyses.

If you succeed in reaching this objective, you will promote the implementation of the Climate Convention, and pave the way for the INC.

Once we have achieved a common understanding of the tools to be used in the assessment of national plans for the review process under the Climate Convention, we will also have a common understanding and acceptance of the information to be reported to the Climate Convention in order to allow the preparation of reliable assessments of the future emission development.

Reliable projections, based on standardized guidelines, are necessary tools, allowing politicians to evaluate whether the measures taken are sufficient.

Denmark takes the lead

Denmark is very serious about the imminent climate changes and their consequences.

With our national objective for a 20% reduction of CO2 emissions by the year 2005, Denmark has set up one of the most ambitious targets, worldwide.

The target will be reached by means of two action plans, one for energy and one for transport.

The Danish Parliament adopted the plans in the spring of 1990, and in the end of 1993 both plans were reevaluated, and certain new initiatives in the field of energy were initiated.

The two plans propose a large number of tools, which have been implemented by statutory instruments.

Some of the tools implemented in Denmark might be an inspiration for other countries.

Energy

In the field of energy, by far the most efficient measures in terms of CO2 emission reductions are co-production of power/heat, actions to reduce CO2 emissions through a CO2 tax, and an increased use of renewable energy for the supply of power, such as biomass, solar heating and wind power.

Such measures will of course be supplemented with initiatives to save energy, both in industry and private households.

In my opinion there are two aspects of implementation which are worth noticing: first, the pay-back period for most initiatives is very short, from two to ten years, and, second, the Danish population is favourable towards the initiatives.

Transport

In the transport area we plan to develop more energy efficient means of transport, by improving the energy efficiency of cars and trucks.

The other primary measure to be used in this field is to influence the public in changing to public transport, and the industry to move the transport of goods over distances of more than e.g. 300 km to railway or ships.

These measures have a common characteristic: you might agree with me that if they are going to give adequate environmental benefits they must be implemented not only at national level, but by international, regional or even better global agreements.

Waste and recycling

In June 1992 the Danish Parliament adopted the Action Plan for Waste and Recycling 1993-97 according to which the aim is to incinerate all combustible wastes which are not to be recycled. By incineration, the energy content of wastes will be used to replace fossil fuels and we will get a substantial reduction of the potential for methane from landfills.

Today the total waste amounts to about 10 million tons per annum. The objective is that about 50% of the total waste volumes generated in the year 2000 should be recycled. The remainder should primarily be incinerated, and landfilling should be minimized.

Afforestation

The Danish Government has adopted a Forest Plan, aiming at doubling the Danish forest cover, which is today 12%, within the next 80-100 years.

Planting of trees will increase the removal of CO2 by uptake in Danish forests, corresponding to less than 5% of the annual CO2 emission.

At this moment this uptake is not included in the objective for a 20% reduction of CO2 emissions, but when the IPCC succeeds in finding a common accepted method for calculation of uptakes in forests, the situation will be reevaluated.

Economic aid

Denmark takes the lead, also in relation to financial assistance.

Beside contributions towards the operation of the UNEP Collaborating Centre on Energy and Environment at Risų, Denmark contributes in 1994 to the Climate Convention secretariat, to the database project CLIMEX set up at the initiative of the climate secretariat, and to the UN expert panel on climate change (IPCC).

These targeted funds, which make Denmark one of the main contributors in the field of climate change, are a result of the Danish Parliament's decision to increase overall Danish aid to the developing countries up to 1.5% of the GNP by the year 2002.

The Climate Convention

As part of Danish preparations for the latest meeting under the Climate Convention I proposed to my Western European colleagues to support my proposal for a 20% reduction of CO2 emissions by the year 2005.

Although at the meeting most OECD countries agreed that the Climate Convention's stabilization objectives are not sufficient, I regret that only a few countries reacted positively towards my initiative.

To maintain the pressure on the industrial countries, Denmark has proposed that at the next meeting under the Climate Convention in August 1994, we discuss aspects of procedures for a protocol on reduction of emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. This will pave the way for the countries taking part in the first meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Climate Convention, to enable them to adopt the framework and time-schedule of negotiations for a protocol on industrial countries' reductions of first of all CO2 emissions.

Request to the participants

I urge the OECD countries' participants in this Conference to remember that if the OECD countries are to document their seriousness with respect to actions in the field of climate changes, they must, in future negotiations on the protocol, jointly and without any reservations agree on substantial reductions.

To the participants from the developing countries and from countries with economies in transition, I wish to stress the need for cooperation on measures to promote both the national development and the global environment.

Final remarks

Population growth, over-exploitation of natural resources, and mismanagement, put the livelihood of present and future generations at stake.

The global environment is deteriorating at a terrifying rate.

The Climate Convention should be one of the measures to help us change the direction of the development.

The real challenge of global environmental policy will be to adopt short-term measures that contribute to the longer-term structural changes we must foresee - in the developed as well as the developing world.

If at this Conference you succeed in taking up the challenge and agreeing on common approaches to analyze national plans and programmes to control and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, you have achieved something you can be proud of.

Thank you, and good luck in your work.


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