Within the European Union, Denmark has remained a front runner in the push towards developing renewable energy sources, as well as enforcing regulations that support the sustainability of their environment.
Welcome to Denmark
Located on Northern Europe’s Jutland Peninsula and surrounding islands, Denmark can be thought of as both a cultural and geographical bridge between Western Europe and Scandinavia.
Several centuries ago, Viking raiders used to base their attacks from Denmark. In the 10th century, the country was unified under a monarchy and ruled over parts of Sweden and Finland. The remnants of that autocratic past can be seen in the country’s many old palaces and ornate gardens.
While fertile plains cover 64% of Denmark, since the 1960s, this country has increased its economic focus towards industry rather than agriculture. Today, Danish firms are world leaders in the pharmaceutical, maritime shipping and renewable energy sectors. In 2019, Denmark’s GDP is expected to increase 1.8%.
Denmark exports large amounts of food, oil and gas. However, its manufacturing sector heavily relies on the importation of raw materials. In general, the country is quite prosperous and Danish society is supported by robust social welfare programs.
Environmental Issues of Denmark
According to a recent report from the European Environment Agency, Denmark has continued to make great strides in improving the health of its various ecosystems. However, the report noted, there is still more progress that needs to be made.
The agricultural industry, which primarily cultivates barley, occupies more than 60% of Denmark's total area; therefore, the use of fertilizers and pesticides is a major issue facing the country. In addition to affecting the soil, agricultural pesticides and fertilizers from Danish farms have been leaching into rivers and waterways, thereby causing both freshwater and marine environments to become more vulnerable to the harmful effects of these chemicals.
Some of the primary contaminants that can be found in Denmark’s air pollution include sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), lead, particulate matter, benzene, carbon monoxide (CO), ozone and certain heavy metals. Although Denmark meets the limit values that have been set by the EU for most of these substances, the nation still needs to take efforts towards reducing the presence of particulate matter and NO2 in their atmosphere.
Denmark is known for its beautiful array of windmills and agriculture. Image Credit: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock.com
Environmental Policies of Denmark
In an effort to reduce fertilizer use in Denmark, a wide range of policies have been introduced. In fact, since 1993, farmers have been required to track their use of fertilizers; an effort which was further strengthened in 1998 by the Danish Regulation on Agricultural Use of Fertilizers and Plants policy. Denmark has also adopted several versions of the Aquatic Action Plans, Green Growth Agreement and the Nitrate National Programme in order to establish relevant and attainable fertilizer requirements for farmers.
Although Denmark has been regarded as Europe’s biggest producer of municipal waste per person in recent years, the nation aims to recycle 70% of all waste by the year 2024. The capital city of Copenhagen actually found that 72% of their population have begun to sort their biowaste, which further support other environmental issues by converting the waste into biogas and fertilizer alternatives.
To address air quality issues, Denmark passed a tax on nitrogen emissions in 2010. The government has also set aside money to modernize its public transport system: $22 million for cleaner buses and $4.2 million for the railway system.
Denmark’s capital of Copenhagen has also outlined a specific Climate Adaptation Plan to address climate change concerns regarding UV radiation, the spread of diseases, such as water-borne and food-borne illnesses, air quality and health effects and biodiversity. The plan calls for taking steps to prevent damage if the risk of damage is particularly high. If damage is deemed unavoidable, the plan calls for measures to reduce the impact. The Climate Adaptation Plan also calls for Copenhagen to take steps that reduce its vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Furthermore, Denmark recognizes their responsibility to invest in ways in which this nation can meet the challenges that climate change pose for this nation, while also minimizing the costs associated with preventing and rectifying its damage.
Danish Energy, Environment, Climate solutions, and Wind energy. Video Credit: www.energymap.dk/YouTube
Clean Technology in Denmark
As a leading global exporter of energy technology, Denmark is well on its way to achieve full fossil independence by 2050. For example, Danish developments for both wind power and solar cell capacity have significantly exceeding their 2012 expectations.
In an effort to increase the affordability of these alternative energy options, the price of Danish offshore wind has decreased by 60% over the past 12 years. The Danish People’s Party introduced a price competition in 2017 between solar VP and wind turbines to further ensure low prices for renewable energy options. While the Danish energy supply continues to become greener, researchers are primarily interested in developing ways in which they can prevent fluctuations in solar and wind energy production that can result from changing weather patterns.
Denmark: Environmental Issues, Policies and Clean Technology
Wind turbines like these in Copenhagen are helping drive Denmark's renewable energy sector. Image credit: Alfonso de Tomas / Shutterstock.com
Pollution caused by industrial processes and transportation is still a major concern in Denmark. Image credit: Gert Lavsen / Shutterstock.com
A Clean Future?
In addition to a robust clean tech industry, Denmark’s government has taken numerous steps that embrace renewable energy sources. Past policies have transitioned the country from a nation that was heavily dependent on fossil fuel imports, to one that is aiming towards only utilizing renewable energy in the near future.
In addition to heavy investments in wind and bio-energy power, Denmark also uses smart-grid technology to used energy more efficiently. With a world-leading clean tech sector and aggressive set of sustainability policies, a clean future looks highly likely for Denmark.
Sources and Further Reading
This article was updated on 7th March, 2019.