LESSON 1: SET A BOLD GOAL
The 2019 elections in Denmark were all about climate change. This was preceded by a very hot summer in 2018 with droughts and crop failures, and the increasing global popularity of Greta Thunberg and her climate strikes. But even before these elections, Denmark has shown to be a frontrunner when it comes to setting big goals to take climate action.
Denmark has committed to, by 2030, achieving a 70% emissions reduction (50% by 2025) compared with 1990 levels. They also aim climate neutrality by 2050¹.
The city of Copenhagen has set itself the goal of becoming the first carbon neutral capital in the world by 2025, and to completely eliminate the city’s 2 million tonnes of carbon footprint over a 10-year period¹.
They plan on accomplishing this goal by building energy-efficiently and insulating houses as much as possible, investing in wind energy and district heating generated (among other things) by incinerating non-replicable waste. They even run tests to see if the CO2 emitted by these installations can be extracted from the smoke.
Other measures include making public transport energy-neutral and encouraging city residents to cover as many distances as possible by bicycle or on foot. To encourage car owners to opt for non-polluting transport, higher taxes are being levied on polluting fuel and more bicycle paths are being built.
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The Danish government is also moving ahead on national waste prevention and waste management strategies, which have levied higher charges for the disposal of waste and prohibited the incineration of certain types of materials.
CIRCULAR CONSTRUCTION & RENOVATION
But it doesn’t end here. In 2016, the Danish government formed a Circular Economy Advisory Board consisting of public and private experts to make recommendations on how Denmark can move closer to achieving a circular economy.
With its “Grøn Boligaftale 2020” (Green Agreement for housing), the Danish government has made DKK30b (€4b) available from the Landsbyggefonden (The National Building Fund) for more energy-friendly renovation of homes in the period 2020-2026. This can be used for both small and large projects².
To support Danish construction and their construction sector during the global pandemic, it was decided that DKK12b (€1.6b) of this could already be used in 2020 for green renovation projects of rental properties².
CARBON REQUIREMENTS & TAX
A majority in the Danish parliament reached an agreement in 2021 that places greater demands on the construction sector (for new construction). These requirements are implemented in the “Bygningsregelet“, the Danish building law.
From January 1st 2023, the Danish building regulation now includes climate requirements for all new buildings.
An analysis of the impact on the climate during the life cycle of a building must be made for all construction projects. For construction projects larger than 1000 m², a maximum of 12 kg CO2 per m² emission per year* will also be introduced during a period of 50 years (including building materials and heating). From 2023 to 2029, the requirements will gradually be tightened².
Generic data from the Danish generic database (BR18) or EPDs can be used for LCA calculations.
* In Denmark, not the ‘loose’ building material is considered (as is the case in the Netherlands, for example), but the collection of materials: what they cost in terms of CO2 during production, during construction and during the operational life of the building . This also includes maintenance, partial replacements and repairs. All this together results in the CO2 consumption of a building, expressed per m² per year².
In 2022, the Danish coalition government has also agreed to introduce a corporate carbon tax from 2025, which should progressively increase in 2030. The government will use the proceed of the carbon tax to lower the electricity tax as from 2028 and create a DKK1bn (€130m) green fund to accelerate green transition and phase out fossil fuels between 2024 and 2040³.
Last year, Denmark also partnered with Costa Rica on launching the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, aimed at moving more countries away from extracting fossil fuel.
- Denmark has a population density of 135.2 people per km²[²]. To compare, in the Netherlands this is 523 per km²[⁴], in the United Kingdom 281 per km²[⁵] and in the United States 36 per km²[⁶].
- Energy consumption of buildings is responsible for 40% of Denmark’s overall energy consumption, accounting for 23% of Denmark’s CO2 emissions⁷.
- In 2012, 26% of total energy consumption of Denmark was already generated from sustainable sources. Twice as much as in Germany (12.4%) and no less than five times as much as in the Netherlands (4.5%)⁸.
- 2/3 of all waste in Denmark is recycled (including both citizen and industry waste)⁹.
- Only 4% of waste in Denmark ends up in landfills⁹.
- In 2024, BioBasedTiles® are being produced large-scale in Denmark. The Biomason EPD team is working closely together with the engineers in Denmark to calculate the environmental profile of the product – a full EPD publication will follow soon!
At StoneCycling, we have a vision where all cities and their buildings will be constructed of aesthetic, sustainable building materials that are 100% recyclable at the end of their life cycle and absorb more carbon than it takes to create them.
To make this vision reality, we've created a road map and set ourselves a few rules to play by, which you can read on our mission page.
LESSON 2: MEASURE ACTUAL IMPACT
Setting bold climate goals is great, but how do they compare to the actual results? A good place to look is the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI). The CCPI uses a standardized framework to compare the climate performance of 59 countries and the EU, which together account for 92% of global greenhouse gas emissions¹.
Overall, Denmark receives high ratings in the GHG Emissions, Renewable Energy, and Climate Policy categories. However, it ranks 26th in Energy Use, earning only a medium in that category.
In the rankings, Denmark is in fourth place. We find Sweden in 5th place, followed by Chile, Morocco, India, Estonia and Norway in 7th-10th place. The United Kingdom ranks 11th, the Netherlands 13th, Germany 16th and the United States can be found at number 52.
It is also important to note that the first three spots of this index are empty because no country is doing enough to align with limiting global warming to 1.5°C, according to CCPI. Also, besides their ranking, India, Norway, the UK, Germany and the USA are marked as the biggest producers of oil, gas, and coal worldwide.
The ranking gives a good general comparison between countries, but to see if there is real progress made, you have to look deeper. The independent Danish Council on Climate Change (DCCC), under the Danish Climate Act, is charged with assessing whether governmental policies sufficiently match the target.
They have concluded that despite significant progress, Denmark is currently NOT on track to meeting its 2025 target of a 50% emissions reduction compared with 1990. The CCPI mainly criticize that the Danish government focuses too much on carbon capture and storage, and not enough on problems such as the emissions from burning biomass in the energy sector.
At the end of 2023, the Danish parliament will discuss again what the climate requirements should be from 2025 and if for example the ceiling of kg CO2 emissions per m² should be lowered. Stricter climate requirements will then be agreed again in 2025 and 2027.
At StoneCycling, we have a close eye on the impact we have on the world and track the particular waste streams we use, the number of kilograms of upcycled waste, the CO2 we reduce compared to conventional products, and ultimately, the CO2 we capture in each of our projects.
Have a look at our projects page to see the impact we've already created!
LESSON 3: INVEST IN NEW TECHNOLOGY & PARTNERSHIPS
Denmark is a small, open economy that is highly dependent on developments in the rest of the world.
Reaching their sustainability goals requires a significant investment in clean technologies – and there is a lot of interest in Denmark in cooperation with technology providers from The Netherlands, as well as other countries.
Supported by the government by stimulating research, the industry has already invested heavily in energy-efficient technologies and the generation of renewable energy.
As a leading country in terms of technology adoption and digitalisation, Denmark is also committed to nurturing the growth of the sharing economy via online sharing platforms and establishing resources to assist companies and citizens in reducing and rethinking waste.
With a long tradition of investing in high-quality research institutions that have strong links to industry, it’s easier for industry and academia in Denmark to collaborate on developing products and solutions that incorporate circular economy principles.
In 2015, Denmark was awarded the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders award ‘The Circulars’ for being a global frontrunner in exploiting the potential for a circular economy.
At StoneCycling, we fully embrance cross-sectoral partnerships. We believe that involving industry professionals, architects, designers and developers, as well as governmental organisations, the private sector and ordinary citizens is key in the transition to a circular economy.
Are you interested in innovative solutions in construction and do you have an appreciation for aesthetic design based on quality and sustainability? Get in touch to talk about how we could work together on a project!
Courage. Assessment. Collaboration
As we can see in Denmark, developing and executing a sustainable policy requires courage. Longevity and future-focused thinking are key, since results will not be visible right away.
That means for policy makers accepting that climate goals will often be reached after their term of office and for companies to be progressive in the way they run their business.
In Copenhagen, the city council developed a plan for 2025 in the year 2005. And they are maintaining that goal, regardless of whether a left-wing or a right-wing coalition is in power. Because of this stability, it is also more interesting for companies to participate in this sustainable policy, as they know what to expect in the coming years.
But policy alone isn’t enough. Regular assessment shows whether governmental policies sufficiently match the target of if stricter climate requirements are needed.
And finally, climate action is something countries need to take together with policy makers, industries, companies and citizens. Significant investment in clean technologies, as well as involvement of academia is essential to successfully incorporate circular economy principles on a larger scale.
Are you an architect, designer or developer in Denmark or other Scandinavian countries looking to work with beautiful BioBased building materials? We would love to connect.
Did you know our BioBasedTiles® are already listed in the Nordic Swan Ecolabel’s Building Materials Database and have recently been added to SundaHus Material Data with an A-rating?