In a world where we are surrounded by negative news it is super important to reflect on the positive things happening in climate change laws and accountability.
Denmark has passed a law that makes it illegal to not act on climate change. The country’s new law, called the Climate Act, aims to ensure that Denmark will reduce its carbon emissions by 70 percent in 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The law also aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. These targets alone are not groundbreaking, as net zero climate goals have been set in recent years by companies, countries and states alike around the world. But, what I would like to celebrate in this case is the way Denmark has approached it.
In my previous blog we touched on some of the stand out themes being demonstrated by those with the most success and Denmark is taking a real leadership role regarding climate change adaptation:
- Antifragile attitude and structure. In January 2019 a petition called for Denmark to enact a law to bring it in line with the Paris Agreement. It failed to gain parliamentary support but the groundswell movement ensured that climate change became one of the top items of debate leading up to the election in June 2019.
- Culture to challenge and debate constructively and ultimately leverage data and science to design solutions customized to a specific set of needs. To achieve the Paris Agreement we need to commit to targets that may not be achievable based on today’s thinking and available technology. Therefore one needs to set goals based on the science of what must be achieved vs what is considered possible. This leadership is imperative to drive the right innovation, investment and delivery.
- Recognition and acceptance of an uncertain future and the need to balance short-term needs and wants with long-term success. What I particularly like about the law is that it holds the country’s leaders and political parties accountable. Annually, the government of Denmark will need to get majority approval for its strategies. If they are not endorsed or seen to be meeting the commitments, then it will lead to personal and governmental changes. I love this: accountability to drive performance is imperative for success! Most importantly, it overcomes the issues associated with short term party/individual leader changes who have views not aligned to the needs of future generations or aligned with commitments made in the past.
- A commitment to a sustainable (business, community, environment) future through diverse and collaborative action. Denmark’s law is intended to ensure all policies support sustainable development. Climate change is seen as a collective issue and opportunity that must be dealt with collaboratively. As such, Denmark proposes it engage with business and the public through a “council” structure to discuss proposed plans. Lastly, I would like to acknowledge that Denmark recognizes that their actions alone will not make the impacts necessary for our global community and has proposed to make a commitment to support other countries to cut their emissions through trade and foreign policy.
Denmark is showing what is possible and this is creating huge opportunities. We are seeing innovation and success stories through the likes of Orsted (formerly DONG – Danish Oil and Natural Gas), who was ranked most sustainable company in the world in the Corporate Knights 2020 Global 100 index of most sustainable corporations. A decade ago, they were one of the most fossil fuel-intensive energy companies in Europe. The transformation is incredible and demonstrates what is possible. More countries, communities and businesses should take notice, lead by example, collaborate, coordinate, set stretch goals, embrace this challenge as a positive one and not a burden, and adapt with purpose.