Denmark’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.
Ida Auken is Minister for the Environment of Denmark