Climate agreements offer good opportunities for cooperation

Part of a series of business columns in Danish newspaper Fyens Stiftstidende
Author: Camilla Haustrup Hermansen, Deputy CEO and Director of Business Development
Published: 24.10.2021

There are many indications that the autumn municipal elections in Denmark will be a historic, green one, just like the general elections in 2019. This is positive. It is absolutely crucial that we address the green transition throughout the country if we are to achieve the goal of reducing Denmark’s CO2 emissions by 70% by 2030.

The municipalities play a great and important role in the green transition. They are the important owners of public utilities, they are responsible for 70% of public buildings, and they are bulk buyers of anything from beef and beans to hand soap, IT solutions, and bus operations. In fact, Danish municipalities purchase goods worth DKK 80 billion yearly. In comparison, the entire public sector purchases goods worth DKK 380 billion each year. Therefore, there is great potential in reducing the public sector’s overall climate footprint by requiring that procurement of goods must be conducted sustainably and live up to a number of sustainable criteria. For example, procurements should be based on the EU’s green procurement guidelines and the requirements behind eco-labels. This should focus on the overall economy where product lifecycle and operating costs are taken into account, and finally the procurement must include considerations and requirements for the post-consumption phase. And why not add an innovation clause for continuous dialogue on optimizing operations and the green profile of the procurement over time? There is a lot of innovation and development under way. It is time to think in new ways – in close interaction with the companies that deliver the product or service.

Many municipalities are already working on uplifting the Danish climate goals, and an increasing number of municipalities do in fact invite the private sector into dialogue and partnerships on climate solutions and plans towards 2030. This is a clever move, because many companies are already in the process of implementing their own climate action plans and can deliver concrete, green solutions and circular products. At the same time, they are currently making even more ambitious plans for how they can make a greater contribution to the necessary transition to a green, circular resource economy, and prioritize biodiversity, climate, environment, nature, and water. Several of the companies’ green plans can only be carried out in close cooperation with local authorities. Just think about the approval of new, sustainability-certified buildings, the establishment of renewable energy sources in the form of solar panels and wind turbines, and the conversion of outdoor areas into wild nature. These are some of the initiatives which we are currently working on in Plus Pack.

It is evident that the municipalities – like private companies – cannot solve all tasks in the green transition on their own. However, they can – like private companies – always focus on efforts in their own operations and co-ownerships wherever it is possible in order to make a difference today. One such area could be local waste handling. As chair of the Danish Government’s Climate Partnership for waste, water, and circular economy, and as a member of the Government’s Green Business Forum, I follow the developments in this area with great interest for good reasons. Homogeneous sorting, collection, and a uniform way of handling recyclable household waste will pave the way for new jobs, investments, and business opportunities as well as boost a circular recycling sector in Denmark. Therefore, I would like to make a clear call for the coming local politicians to read closely the broad political agreement on a green waste sector and circular economy from June 2020 – and I urge them to do it now. The political agreement has determined that household waste must be collected in ten fractions and that recyclable waste must be tendered out on the private market for further processing.

The climate agreement in the waste area offers good opportunities for an increased cooperation between municipal waste companies and private companies. The role of the municipalities is quite central here – and fortunately, many of them make an effort to achieve this. However, it does not promote investment in large facilities when a number of municipalities on Funen plead for local deviations from the uniform national sorting. A uniform national sorting which sought to create economies of scale and contribute to promoting new investments in the waste sector in the first place. The same things can be said when some municipalities invest in sorting-depots and grading equipment. According to the national Danish climate agreement, municipalities are not allowed to own or operate – and will not need – new depots and equipment with effect from January 1st 2025. From this date and onwards, all the dry, recyclable waste from households and municipalities will be required to be handed over to the coming, extended producer responsibility on packaging.

Soon, we will see more citizens supporting local politicians to implement the waste agreement. A poll conducted for The Danish Society for Nature Conservation shows that nature, environment, and climate are among the most important municipal policy themes for the voters. This survey also shows that these themes hold an importance for 2 out of 5 voters with respect to whom they will vote for in the local elections in November. A closer look at the concrete, green initiatives which the voters want the municipalities to prioritize, reveals that 1 in 4 citizens believes that it is absolutely crucial that their future municipal council focuses on ensuring clean drinking water. All in all, half of the respondents outlines the securing of drinking water as one of the three main initiatives. The second highest number of responses (40%) shows that citizens believe that their future municipal council should prioritize securing nature and more green areas, while the third highest number of responses (34%) identifies waste management as one of the three most important initiatives. This is an area in which citizens can help make a green difference from their homes, and where a great ambition to see more sorting options settled promptly is present. Even the municipalities of Funen cannot ignore this.

It is only through targeted work with green and circular transition throughout all of the country’s municipalities that we can ensure the right framework for increased, public-private cooperation – and the necessary investments in the green workplaces of the future, which is one of the most important levers to support the green transition in Denmark.

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