Denmark sees Korea as environmental partner: envoy

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Denmark sees Korea as environmental partner: envoy

Tomas Anker Christensen, climate ambassador of Denmark, speaks with the Korea JoongAng Daily at the Danish diplomatic residence in Seoul on June 10. [EMBASSY OF DENMARK IN KOREA]

Tomas Anker Christensen, climate ambassador of Denmark, speaks with the Korea JoongAng Daily at the Danish diplomatic residence in Seoul on June 10. [EMBASSY OF DENMARK IN KOREA]

Using green hydrogen to power planes, ship and cars is a goal the Danes are eager to achieve, and one that could be shared with Korea, said the top climate change envoy from Denmark on a recent visit to Seoul.
“There is a growing Danish-Korean hydrogen alliance among companies, regulatory authorities and governments to explore potential cooperation on green hydrogen,” Tomas Anker Christensen, climate ambassador of Denmark, told the Korea JoongAng Daily at the Danish diplomatic residence in Seoul on June 10.
“As Korea is looking to develop further its hydrogen cars, our shipping companies are now building ships to sail on green fuels,” he added. “There is a lot of synergy in our interests on hydrogen.”
Christensen was on his third visit to Korea since he was sworn in as the climate ambassador in 2020. Pandemic travel restrictions did not stop the envoy from taking part in bilateral meetings on green transition, to keep on track the agreement dating back to 2011 when the two countries established Green Growth Alliance and designated climate action as a focus area for bilateral cooperation.  
There’s no doubt that Danish and Korean commitments to transition to green energy resources remain as real as they were a decade ago, Christensen said, adding that perhaps they are even stronger with the recent energy crisis in Europe following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  
“The impact of the war in Ukraine on energy prices globally has reminded all of us the need for the global community to stand together,” said Christensen. “In Denmark we have taken bold steps to increase the speed of our green transition.”
Vowing to make Denmark independent of Russian gas, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced with her German, Dutch, Belgian and European Union counterparts last month that they will produce at least 65 gigawatts of offshore wind energy in the North Sea by 2030, and 150 gigawatts by 2050, around half of the total offshore wind energy generation needed to meet EU commitments by 2050.  
Denmark today already sources nearly 70 percent of its daily energy needs from wind, some days even 100 percent. Its goal is to run the nation totally on renewables from 2028.  
To find out more about where the country stands on a number of energy security issues and what they mean for the Danish-Korean partnership on green growth, the Korea JoongAng Daily sat down with Christensen on June 10. The following are edited excerpts of the interview.
Q. “When we become greener, we weaken Putin,” said Prime Minister Frederiksen in announcing a plan in April to make Denmark independent of Russian gas, which includes building more solar and wind energy sources but also a short-term increase in production of gas in the North Sea. Where does Denmark stand on ending oil and gas production in the North Sea by 2050?

The government’s decision to end our oil and gas production in the North Sea by 2050 stands as pledged. We made that decision two years ago when we were the largest producer of oil and gas in the EU. In order to be Paris-aligned, we needed to end the production, meaning we decided to issue no more licenses for new production and not to renew expiring licenses. The idea is to stop all Danish extraction of fossil fuels by 2050. As a supplier of fossil fuel, we felt we had the responsibility to curb the supply. In [the COP 26] in Glasgow, we launched the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance with Costa Rica, which was joined by many nations and sub-national entities and sends a signal to the market that the time of oil and gas is ending.
Will Denmark be able to stand by its plan to run the country totally on renewables from 2028?

Absolutely. We have a policy mechanism to keep ourselves on track. In the Danish climate law adopted in 2020, there is an annual wheel of policymaking that we have to abide by until 2030. The wheel goes like this: In January we have a climate council, consisting of experts on climate, environment and economics, which reports on the status of our climate action, on how Denmark is doing in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent by 2030, compared to its levels in 1990. By April, the Danish Energy Agency reports to parliament on the emissions profile of Denmark from the previous year, which includes how much we reduced in Denmark and how much we reduced through our cooperation outside of Denmark, including through the value chain of Danish companies. Then in September we have to put forward a climate program with a plan of action for the next year. This program sets out all the action through the next fiscal year, which will be discussed along with the national budget. And in December, the parliament passes a law for the fiscal year for the next year, including the plans on climate action. Then it’s a repeat from January, with the council meeting, and this we have to do every year through 2030.  
Will the recent North Sea agreement be enough to help Europe out of the energy crisis?

Part of the energy crisis is because of German dependence on gas from Russia. Germany is saying they want to accelerate their [energy] transition, but it is getting out of nuclear, out of coal, and also out of Russian gas at the same time. They need to increase their procurement of green energy extremely fast. And we have offered to work with them to produce green energy in the North Sea. Our domestic need in Denmark is maybe 7 gigawatts. So if we [generate] 65 gigawatts [the excess energy will be exported] to Germany, or to the Netherlands or Belgium and then used to produce hydrogen.  
There’s been discussions of green hydrogen for a while, but the technology has remained largely out of reach and too costly for most. How does Denmark plan to generate affordable green hydrogen?

As part of the 65-gigawatt plan that the prime minister launched, we will build artificial energy islands 80 kilometers out in the ocean. Each island is like a huge power station with windmills around each. For each island, 10 gigawatts will be generated from the wind, and there will be capacity on the island to covert the energy into hydrogen. The electricity will then be transported back to land via transmission cables and the hydrogen via a pipeline. The energy loss is very little because the transition happens at the source.  
Denmark’s daily domestic energy demand is around 7 gigawatts, 10 gigawatts at most, so you can focus the electricity generation during the hours in the evenings when the majority of the population would be using electricity at home, and use the excess energy for other hours to produce the green hydrogen.  
How does Denmark expect Korea to play a role in its hydrogen plans?

There is incredible synergy between Korean and Danish skills on wind energy. Offshore wind developers and wind turbine producers from Denmark have close cooperation with Korean companies, which provide the technology for building the wind towers and cables, and they have been working together in many parts of the world.  
Cooperation on green cars is another example. Denmark doesn’t produce any cars, and for the [transition to] green cars, such as electric and hydrogen cars, Korea is one of the most important producers of these vehicles in the world. In Denmark, last year we went from having almost no sale of EVs [electronic vehicles] and hybrid cars at the beginning of the year, and then in December more than 50 percent of car sales were EVs and hybrid cars. There are many Korean cars in the Danish car pool, such as Kias and Hyundais. We rely on countries like Korea to step up the production of EVs and to help us through that transformation at home.

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