Trump's Paris Exit Sidelines D.C. for Danish Wind Energy

Updated on
  • Danish energy minister says American states will ignore Trump
  • China is next stop on minister’s list for green energy talks

What the U.S. Departure Means for the Paris Agreement

For Denmark, which relies more on wind energy than any other nation on the planet, Thursday last week was a pretty bad day.

The country’s energy minister, Lars Chr. Lilleholt, watched in dismay as U.S. President Donald Trump extracted the world’s biggest economy from the Paris accord, ignoring decades of science-based work that had guided political efforts to protect the globe from climate change. But Lilleholt says the move also ignored the sound economics of renewable energy, and if the White House isn’t listening, he’s ready to take his message elsewhere.

Read more: Paris exit leaves Trump isolated across the board

The minister’s next stop is China, where he’ll discuss green energy this week at an event with about 20 other nations (representatives from the U.S. will also be there). Lilleholt says the view in Washington D.C. can’t upend a movement that China, India and Europe all support. What’s more, he expects American states to ignore Trump’s agenda and continue using green energy. He says he’s already received signals from local governments to that effect.

“It’s my expectation that a number of U.S. states, east-coast states and Texas, among others, will continue to back this,” Lilleholt said in an interview in Copenhagen. “Regardless what Trump says, the green transition will continue across the world, and in the U.S.”

According to what the Danish government is hearing, Trump is likely to be isolated in his decision to abandon the Paris accord.

The pact still “looks solid,” Lilleholt said. “The rest of the world stands together. The EU is united, we’ve heard from China, India, the U.K. I haven’t heard of any other nations preparing to exit.”

Lilleholt’s travel itinerary sheds some light on the global leadership shift in an area that’s proving more economically viable than fossil fuel production. Or, as Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs puts it, Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate accord “is handing industrial leadership outside the U.S.”

Read more: Top executives slam Trump for Paris decision

Denmark, which is home to Vestas Wind Systems A/S, the world’s biggest wind-turbine maker, and Dong Energy A/S, the world’s biggest offshore wind-park operator, has long played a prominent role in global renewable energy policies.

Vestas estimates that the U.S. wind industry “supports more than 100,000 jobs in 50 states, and it brings billions of dollars in economic development to the communities that host the projects,” said Morten Dyrholm, a senior vice president for marketing at the company.

Denmark, which already gets about 40 percent of its electricity from wind power, is on target to have all its energy needs covered by renewables by 2050. Much of the new capacity will be built without subsidies. Lilleholt says Denmark’s experience makes clear that coal is no longer cheaper to produce than renewable energy.

Lilleholt says Denmark will lobby hard in the European Union for the bloc to take a bigger role in the Paris accord now that the U.S. is out of the arrangement. He also said it was too much to expect the rest of the world to absorb the gap left by the U.S.

“We can’t just distribute the U.S. obligations on 15 percent of the emissions to the other countries,” he said.

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