Since the launch of the Nordic/Serbian green project, we have seen increased contacts and concrete collaboration between Nordic and Serbian businesses within the scope of green transition
Denmark has worked hard since the 1970s to become one of the world’s greenest countries. As Danish Ambassador to Serbia H.E. Susanne Shine notes in this interview, sustainability is today a key element of Danish society.
Denmark’s green transition has proved hugely beneficial to the Danish economy. What steps or preconditions were the most important to securing a sustainable transition?
– The Danish energy sector has seen several dramatic changes over the past 50 years. The green transition in Denmark originally began at the time of the oil crisis of the 1970s. At that time, more than 90% of our energy needs were covered by oil imported from the Middle East. As a result of the crisis, the government introduced a range of measures to reduce our energy dependence, such as “car-free Sundays” and lowering of speed limits.
The government also began to explore ways to meet growing energy demand in a more sustainable way, and accordingly introduced centralised economic incentives for developing sustainable solutions. Over the years, this shift in mentality transformed Danish society fundamentally. Today, children are taught early on to save water and electricity, while we also insulate our houses and recycle our waste in a sustainable way. The most visible legacy of that mentality is probably our cycle lanes and wind turbines.
We started erecting wind turbines already during the 1970s, and today Denmark is among the leading nations when it comes to the research, development, production and installation of wind turbines. The turnover of the Danish wind sector amounted to 17 billion euros in 2020. This development was a conscious choice on behalf of our government, which introduced subsidies for research and test facilities early on. Later on, price subsidies were also introduced to make it economically sustainable to sell electricity generated from wind turbines. When the technology improved and wind turbines became more profitable, we were able to phase out price subsidies. Vestas – our world-leading wind turbine manufacturer, with more than 160 GW of wind turbines installed in 88 countries – is present here in Serbia.
These deliberate policy choices have put us in a position where roughly 70% of our electricity is today sourced from renewables. When the wind blows hard across the North Sea (which it often does), wind energy produces more than 100% of Danish electricity demand, allowing us to export the surplus to our neighbours. Over the course of the past 15 years, we’ve also been able to reduce coal consumption by 80% and natural gas consumption by 45%.
In summary, it was crucial that Danish politicians, when confronted by immense geopolitical challenges, had the political will and courage to drastically change Danish policy. Danish governments have since continued on this path and today we have the ambition to become fossil-fuel free by 2050. In order to achieve this target, the Danish parliament adopted the 2019 ‘Climate Act’, which sets out the ambitious goal of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2030.
What has changed positively since the Nordic countries first shifted the focused of their cooperation in Serbia to the Green Agenda?
– Since the Nordic/Serbian green project began, we have seen increased contacts and concrete collaboration between Nordic and Serbian businesses within the scope of green transition. I also believe that the Nordic/ Serbian green project has placed an increased focus on the importance of green transition and the circular economy in Serbia.
Nordic companies are nowadays role models for all things sustainable. In that sense, I am very happy to see that several eminent Danish companies have chosen Serbia as a reliable partner in showcasing their sustainable achievements. Pump manufacturer Grundfos is one of the prime examples of this. It has just recently inaugurated a new state of the art production plant in Inđija that features solar panels, a rainwater harvesting system, geothermal technology for cooling and heating and a distributed pumping solution using Grundfos’s own technology. It is a great pleasure for me to see that Serbia is hosting and embracing such successful examples and, hopefully, they can also serve as an example to others.
Denmark will take on special responsibility for sustainable farming, which is a huge topic. How did you go about it?
– Denmark has agriculture in its DNA. The Danish economy was based on the agriculture and fishery sectors for hundreds of years. The economy has today changed, but the agriculture sector still employs roughly 200,000 people and yields exports worth 21 billion euros annually. Since 1990, we have managed to triple production in our food sector while simultaneously reducing emissions related to the food sector by 16%. However, given that agriculture represents roughly 15 per cent of global emissions and that we have a population that’s growing globally, we have to realise that current production methods and emission levels are unsustainable.
it was crucial that Danish politicians, when confronted by immense geopolitical challenges, had the political will and courage to drastically change Danish policy. Danish governments have since continued on this path and today we have the ambition to become fossil-fuel free by 2050
Connecting all these issues is no simple task. Increasing output and quality, while lowering greenhouse gas emissions and maintaining top standards of animal welfare, is not a task for one country and it is definitely not a task for one farmer to take on alone. Having this in mind, we decided to dedicate the Danish-led conference to this topic, and to give both Danish and Serbian experts and farmers an opportunity to present their findings and exchange their experiences.
What are the most significant outcomes of the “Nordic-Serbian Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture” Conference, which was held in Novi Sad on 18th October?
– We are very satisfied that we managed to gather a significant number of both Danish and Serbian agriculture experts at Science and Technology Park Novi Sad, with whom we had great collaboration. From the Danish side, this included Ms Lise Walbom, CEO of Food Nation Denmark, Mr Tom Axelgaard, CEO of Goodvalley and president of Danish Farmers Abroad, Mr Torben Tornegaard Olesen, Chairman of the Danish Pig Academy, as well as representatives of industry leaders ACO FUNKI, DanVit, Breeders of Denmark, Skov, SundsAlfa and Fog Agroteknik. From the Serbian side, we heard from Professor Vitomir Vidović of the University of Novi Sad, Mr Marko Panić of the Biosense Institute and other eminent Serbian professionals.
The event’s most significant outcome was the knowledge exchange between Danish and Serbian stakeholders. An important takeaway from the conference was also that making agriculture more sustainable is not only an environmental question, but also a question of dollars and cents. For example, when farmers take a scientific approach to choosing fodder for their pigs and invest in the right products, they can both lower their costs (because they won’t need to buy as much as before), increase their output (because the animal feed is more nutritious) and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (because the feed is more sustainable). This kind of thinking is what is needed to make agriculture more sustainable.
Making agriculture more sustainable is not only an environmental question, but also a question of dollars and cents. This kind of thinking makes agriculture more sustainable
Nordic companies are nowadays role models for all things sustainable. In that sense, I am very happy to see that several eminent Danish companies have chosen Serbia as reliable partners
I believe that the Nordic/Serbian green project has placed an increased focus on the importance of green transition and the circular economy in Serbia