A global responsibility
The greenhouse effect is a global problem and needs to be addressed on a global scale. Efforts have been made both within the UN and the EU, and initiatives are ongoing to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The UN agreed on a climate convention to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in 1992, and as a measure to reach this objective, the Kyoto Protocol was elaborated in 1997.
The Danish commitments on greenhouse gases
Denmark is committed to the Kyoto Protocol, which finally entered into force in February 2005. The Kyoto Protocol requires signatory countries to reduce their total emissions of green house gases by an average of 5.2% in the period 2008-2012 compared to the 1990 level. The EU countries have agreed to a total reduction of 8%. Under the EU burden-sharing agreement, Denmark is committed to reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases by 21%. The burden-sharing agreement is based on the energy consumption and the economic resources of the EU Member States.
Energy production and agriculture
The global warming caused by emissions of greenhouse gases is expected to cause various changes in climate over the next centuries. Global warming is projected to cause a rise in average temperatures in the order of magnitude of 1.4º C to 5.5º C between 1900 and 2100. This will cause a rising sea level, changes in rainfall patterns, floods, droughts, changes in biota and food productivity, and increases in infectious diseases. Human influence will continue to change atmospheric composition throughout the 21st century, and the climate changes will persist for many centuries, even if we succeed in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
The greenhouse gases of concern in Denmark are CO2, methane, N2O, HFCs, PFCs and SF6. CO2 is the most important contributor and it accounts for approximately 55% of the global warming effect. A major contributor to emissions of CO2 is the production of energy by fossil fuels. Agriculture is also contributing to emissions of greenhouse gases. Moreover, agriculture contributes three types of greenhouse gases: CO2 emissions from consumption of energy; methane from ruminants' digestion and storage of slurry, and nitrous oxides from conversion of nitrogen in the soil. See agriculture
Consuming less or alternative energy
It is estimated that the energy production to heating buildings and to maintain activities related to agriculture is responsible for nearly half of the total emissions of greenhouse gases in Denmark. It is therefore reasonable to investigate and develop technologies that could optimise energy consumption and circulation in buildings, as well as to look into energy consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases in agriculture (see cases).
Other areas that hold perspectives for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases;
Development of technologies for car engines to reduce the consumption of gasoline per driven km.
Development of alternative fuels (hydrogen and fuel cell technology - see cases).
Using products that are less energy consuming.
Systematic energy optimisation of buildings
In Denmark, half the total energy consumption is caused by heating and operating buildings. Energy consumption in houses could be reduced by two-thirds through systematic energy optimisation.
Technologies for optimising energy consumption apply to both new and existing buildings. It is estimated that a significant reduction in energy consumption can be achieved by applying known technologies in existing buildings, and consumption can be further reduced by developing and applying new technologies. Influencing the following building elements can reduce the energy loss:
Insulation (reducing energy loss from foundations outer walls, roof and windows)
Reducing energy loss by managing heat distribution systems
Reducing energy loss from incomplete fuel-combustion in buildings with own heating production
Managing ventilation and cooling systems
Better integration of different energy consuming functions in buildings.
In the long run other instruments will be applicable to reduce energy use in buildings. For example integrating solar energy in energy consumption of buildings, using solar cells, large windows and glass coverings are being considered. Furthermore the spotlight is on the development of intelligent energy-efficient building components that monitor and manage the use of energy.
Agriculture and emissions of greenhouse gases
Hydrogen as an alternative energy resource
Hydrogen can be used in fuel cells and in advanced combustion engines in vehicles and in gas turbines for electricity production. It provides a unique method of reducing the dependency of fossil fuels. When hydrogen is used as an energy vector in fuel cells, water is released which can then be electrolysed to make more hydrogen. This means that the waste product of hydrogen is even more fuel.
Hydrogen technology has some drawbacks, and one of the reasons why hydrogen is not the preferred energy source today, is that the storage density is low. This means that a car driven by hydrogen would need a tank that is 3,000 times larger than an ordinary gasoline tank, in order to store enough hydrogen at atmospheric pressure to drive the car the same distance as an ordinary car on gasoline. Furthermore, hydrogen is more expensive than other energy sources.
The European Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform
Hydrogen technology still needs research and development, and the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform, established by the European Commission, brings together industry and the scientific community with the purpose of developing hydrogen technology into a future energy resource.
The European Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform:
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Changes:
The Kyoto Protocol:
UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:
The Danish Climate and Energy policy (in English): http://www.kemin.dk/en-US/climateandenergypolicy/dkpolicy/Sider/Denmarksclimateandenergypolicy.aspx