THE SECRETARY GENERAL’S BLOG: Nordic consumption is unsustainable

20.02.19 | News
Dagfinn Høybråten på COP24

Dagfinn Høybråten i samtale med Sveriges ungdomsdelegat til COP24 Henrietta Flodell og kommunikasjonssjef Mary Gestrin

Photographer
Robert Bednarczyk/norden.org
Denmark and the Nordic Region may top the global rankings for sustainable development – but even so, if everyone consumed resources at the rate we do, it would take four Earths to sustain the human race, writes Dagfinn Høybråten, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers in his latest blog.

Denmark is a world leader in sustainability. It has an enviable cycling tradition, world-class wind power and a fantastic welfare system. After six years in Copenhagen, I have experienced all of this at first hand. I am impressed.

But we can’t rest on our laurels. We need to do much more. The Danes’ carbon footprint and per capita climate gas emissions are among the highest in the world. If everybody on the planet were to consume as much as the average Dane, we would need 4.24 planets the size of the Earth to sustain us all. For the other Nordic countries, the figure is between three and four planets. The global average is 1.69.

People are becoming more and more conscious of this. 46% of all Danes now consider climate change a “very serious problem”. That’s a good start – to solve a problem, we must first accept it.

In my capacity as Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, I have been invited to the Danish parliament on Friday this week to speak at a public hearing on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). How is the Nordic Council of Ministers working to achieve these goals, and how can Denmark benefit from our experiences?

Internationally, all of the Nordic countries are in the top ten in terms of their progress towards the goals. The world looks to Denmark and the Nordic Region for sustainable solutions. With this in mind, the Nordic prime ministers have taken the initiative to share Nordic solutions systematically with other countries.

However, we still face many challenges, the biggest of which is the transition to sustainable consumption and production – SDG 12.

The Nordic Region is a pioneer in sustainable development, but we must redouble our efforts if we are to achieve all 17 goals. I think we have every opportunity to serve as a good example, and to ensure a sustainable future for us, our children and grandchildren. If the Nordic Region doesn’t lead the way, who will?  

Secretary General Dagfinn Høybråten

The Nordic countries have been working together on these issues for many years. One of the first and best-known successes was the Nordic environment label “the Swan”, established 30 years ago. The Nordic Council of Ministers launched the label to help consumers make environmentally friendly choices. It now appears on tens of thousands of goods and services.

In 2017, the Ministers for Co-operation agreed to work together to step up efforts to achieve the global goals. One outcome of this is the Generation 2030 programme, which focuses on sustainable consumption and production. The programme is designed to inspire action and inform honest, constructive dialogue about how we can transform the whole consumption and production chain so that it becomes sustainable – economically, socially and ecologically.

Such a transformation will be highly complex and require input from all sectors. The Nordic Council of Ministers’ work on the SDGs is therefore characterised by a high degree of inter-sectoral commitment from all of the councils of ministers – from business to culture. I believe that co-operation is the key on several levels. The Danes and their Nordic neighbours all face similar challenges, and the Region as a whole will make considerable progress if we work together to solve problems, share experiences and develop solutions in various sectors.

The Nordic Region is a pioneer in sustainable development, but we must redouble our efforts if we are to achieve all 17 goals. I think we have every opportunity to serve as a good example, and to ensure a sustainable future for us, our children and grandchildren. If the Nordic Region doesn’t lead the way, who will?