environmentDenmark’s six-month Presidency of the Council of the EU is now nearing its second month. Two weeks ago, we asked you what you thought of Denmark’s plans for a “sustainable” Presidency, and now we’ve taken some of those questions to Ida Auken, Danish Minister for the Environment.

EU blogger and Debating Europe commenter Protesilaos wrote that the “crisis of the euro, should not dominate political talk, marginalizing the major challenges humanity will be facing in the upcoming years. A viable climate is much more important in the long-run than a functional monetary system.” Would the minister agree?

It’s clear that the current financial crisis is setting a difficult background for the Danish Presidency. But the answer to the financial crisis is not a “business as usual scenario”. We’re also facing a resource crisis, and we must tackle the two at the same time.

We need to look at this from both a short-term and a long-term perspective. If we look at it from a short-term perspective, we should do everything we can to address the current crisis; we have to acknowledge certain realities and the way the market works. In the long-term, we have to use taxation incentives, political agreements and all the tools we have.

Tom left a comment arguing that part of the problem is how we measure success. GDP is, according to Tom, the wrong way to measure progress; there are other factors, such as social and environmental costs, that should be measured as well.

I think it’s an important debate. You’ve got Joseph Stiglitz and the ‘beyond GDP’ debate; I think it’s important to keep that discussion alive. What gets measured gets done.

Another commenter, Drew, questioned the viability of renewable technology. Whilst we’ve had commenters question whether they will ever be a viable source of energy, Drew’s point was more about the ready supply of alternatives to oil. He argues that “so much natural gas is going to be available through unconvential gas sources… that it will make renewables look exorbitantly expensive in contrast… Still, I’m hoping this is only temporary and we can eventually abandon hydrocarbons altogether.”

I’m deeply convinced that we can. We have to make the shift to renewables. We have to balance the cost of doing it now – before all technologies can compete on the market – with the hidden costs associated with traditional energy sources.

Take the risk of very, very volatile resource prices. Or the question of security; many of these resources can come from politically unstable regions. Then there is, of course, the climate risk; compare the cost of trying to adapt to climate change with the cost of renewables.

We’re trying to prove in Denmark that this can work on both a short-term and long-term perspective. Denmark aims to be using 100% renewable energy by 2050.

Samo, another of our commenters, agress that Europe “can and should be 100% renewable.” However, he also argues this won’t happen if we continue to be a “consumer society”. Is it time to abandon the ‘growth paradigm’, as some of our commenters have argued?

I don’t think so. I don’t believe there is a way out of the crisis without growth, but there is no growth without competitiveness for Europe, and there’s no competitiveness without looking at the problem of resource scarcity.

McKinsey Global Institute published a report at the end of 2011, showing exactly that we will have a very severe resource crisis if we don’t act on the fact we are now 7 billion people on this planet and on the way to 9 billion.

What do YOU think? Is Europe distracted by the sovereign debt crisis and ignoring the looming resource crisis? Will it be possible to switch to 100% renewables by 2050? Let us know your opinions, and we’ll show them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.


9 comments Post a commentComment


  1. Revollt Way

    without resources ,no industry ,without industry ,week economy & finally -week economy ,financial ,social instabile future

  2. Nikolai Holmov

    The obvious answer is yes with a caveat that it is not only Europe that faces such a challenge ahead.
    In a very similar way to climate change, Europe cannot solve this issue alone. Acting independently from the rest of the globe will ultimately achieve nothing just as with climate change.
    Just as the effects of climate change will not stop at EU borders simply because the EU has been more sensitive to the environment, the depletion of resources will continue despite any initiatives the EU may adopt.
    Will it help us any to have been the ones who reduced consumption when the last rare earth or drop of oil is exhausted? Obviously not. When they are gone they are gone regardless who used the last of it.
    To take the EU energy and transport policies as an insular concept then they are an interesting read, however neither take into account that the structural changes envisaged will actually mean a lot of resources and energy used to create the outcomes. It will all have a resource and energy legacy of massive proportions due to how these things are achieved. What seems to be missing from both policies is the recognition that everything from R&D to delivery has an energy and resource cost often far greater than maintenance of what already exists. It is folly to start to consider energy or resource efficiency from the moment something actually comes on-line. There is a justifiable weight to be given to just how much energy and resources were used to get Project A from the drawing board into reality. That legacy must first be saved during the working life of Project A before it can be claimed that it is having a positive impact going forward. Inevitably maintenance of Project A kicks in long before the legacy is repaid and thus there is the legacy of the maintenance work to add to the legacy.
    It is a very long term project to turn energy and resource management into a genuine resource and energy net gain and to nullify the impact of new systems made today.
    That is not to say it is not a noble goal or even unachievable. It will undoubtedly turn into a holy grail as generations pass and resources become more scarce.
    What is required is a realistic cost/benefit analysis and risk awareness discussion with European society to sell the concept effectively and then lead the planet by example.
    Maybe aid, internal and foreign policy development should never take the form of cash incentives but always take the form of exporting energy and resource saving technology at the beginning of any development engagement?
    All very difficult and complex, particularly when a purely EU solution is really no solution at all.

  3. Christos Mouzeviris

    I really hope so, but I really do not think that Europe will manage to switch to 100% totally renewable energy by 2050..I mean look at us..We are having difficulty deciding over what is the best way to tackle the current economic crisis that it is in our door step NOW..!! Can we agree on something that will be totally implemented by 2050..??

    And with the record of many EU states signing up for something but never making the effort to implement it, I hold little hope..

    First we need a fully functioning union, common policies in many other areas to ensure states agree, promote, implement and stick with the decisions taken..

    We need to agree on pan European level where can we draw renewable energy from, and in what ways..We got sun and wind in the southern states, wind and sea currents in the northern states…If we could set up European companies to develop and exploit all these resources so that each country benefits first and then share those benefits with the other member states, then it would be the first step…

    create new subjects in our universities and encourage our youths to study and explore new professional paths, in the renewable energy sector, and promote it as a life-style for all citizens..create new jobs and professions in this new green sector, so our youths can be absorbed right after they finish their studies…no point of studying something but there is nowhere to go and get and job….

    those new European companies that will be set up, will have investors from many, if not all EU states, not just the rich few…We want this to be beneficial for all countries, and to kick-start the interest in all states, because if it is seen as something that is “cooked” only by Germany, France, Britain or Denmark and Sweden, it will harder to convince the smaller countries’ citizens to have the same enthusiasm about this new project..

    They also need to see it as something of their own, something that is good for them too and they have so much to benefit from it all too..Jobs for their children, prosperity, growth, money, better life-style, healthier living conditions smoke free etc…so attract investors and government involvement from all EU states…my opinion at least..

  4. Enrique De Aresti Gutierrez

    In a finite planet we cannot grow infinitely. In the face of growing scarcity of cheap resources (peak oil, gas, rare earths, etc.), we must change the way the economy operates to extend the useful life of all material elements through mandatory legislation: 1) increasing the health level of people, by better regulation of the agri-food sector to produce food that maintains long-term health, instead of food 80% depleted in vitamins and trace elements indispensable for long-term health (like white flour, refined sugar), reduce the consumption of foods denaturated by chemical treatment (trans fats), by heat above 100ºC or cold (canned and frozen foods): http://www.doc-schnitzer.com/ ; 2) goods by reducing as much as possible the programmed obsolescence: Prêt à jetter documentary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iB8DbSE0Y90;

  5. Enrique De Aresti Gutierrez

    3) Create a legal framework to facilitate the use of renewable energies and the use of intelligent cars that use less oil because: a) they drive autonomously in a more fuel-efficient manner; b) can be lighter because they need less passive-safety devices.

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