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Udenrigsministerens tale ved European International Contractors' forårskonference i København den 21. april 2017


Welcome to Copenhagen! It is great to see so many participants today representing a large part of Europe.


 I am happy you have chosen Copenhagen. It is a good showcase for how to deal with growing cities and do good business at the same time and I hope you take some good examples and inspiration away from your visit.


 The reason we are here is clear: by 2050, there will be 3 billion more people on this planet, many young people looking for opportunities. 70 percent of the world’s population will be urban. And by 2030 the number of mega cities will have increased from 29 to 41.


Urbanisation puts an increasing pressure on cities’ ability to provide core amenities for energy production and consumption, health, transport and waste-, water and traffic management. But cities can also be an efficient way to accommodate a growing population with a more intelligent use of resources. And cities can pull people out of poverty.


But we need a much stronger drive for intelligent urban solutions to  meet the challenges and demands, while creating growth and jobs. 


And this, Ladies and Gentlemen, is where you play an important role. You possess the knowhow, the experience and the technology – and with UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – the SDG’s - you have a unique opportunity to turn global challenges into good business. You can turn the SDG’s into growth and jobs in cities all over the world and we will be a partner when you do that.


Business as usual is not an option. Companies that successfully align their business models with the SDGs are better suited to meet future market demands. SDG’s are a “light-house” with 193 countries agreeing on where the world is heading – and where the demand for innovation will be in the coming years.


If you can find new ways to unlock new land or better use of space to create affordable housing there will be opportunities worth up to 1,000 billion US dollars. If you can deliver innovative solutions for more energy efficient buildings - for instance with more efficient heating or cooling technologies - the opportunities could amount to 770 billion US dollars.


Denmark is an excellent example of how “sustainability” can be good business. Denmark’s reputation for providing innovative, sustainable and intelligent solutions is among the strongest in the world, and Danish cities attract hundreds of foreign delegations looking for inspiration. Since 2005, Denmark has been the European champion in export of energy technology.


Our lead position has committed us to turn urbanization into tangible export opportunities for Danish companies. One example is the new initiative Urban Solutions that I will officially launch in June this year. It is a digital platform that through the global network of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs will connect companies better to the world. I invite you to use it.


Three weeks ago, the Danish Government launched a national action plan for UN Sustainable Development Goals. The SDG’s are important to Denmark and we commit ourselves to measure progress and asses all new legislation according to the SDG’s.


In many areas, Danish policy is already well aligned with the SDG’s. That goes for SDG 6 (Water and Sanitation) where Denmark is a global leader in terms of intelligent, sustainable and efficient water solutions. In Århus – the second largest city of Denmark – a brand new wastewater treatment facility is now producing 50 percent more energy than it is consumes. The excess energy is transferred to the grid. This is a true inspiration for the rest of the world.


Also in terms of SDG 7 (Sustainable Energy) Denmark is at the forefront. Our total energy consumption has remained more or less stable since the 90ies although the Danish economy has grown with more than 40 percent in the same period. This has been possible because of energy efficient solutions and a rather high share of renewable energy.


The secret behind the success is the combination of smart planning, getting the incentives right and creating the right framework for growth - and innovative businesses. The same approach should now be applied for the SDG’s.


So what will the Danish government do to support companies’ engagement in the SDG’s? Firstly, we will work at the international level to push for the SDG’s to be integrated in European and international policy. Secondly, we will pursue partnerships with the private sector, research institutions, civil society, regions and municipalities to make sure that all relevant knowhow and experience is put into play.


In emerging markets and developing countries, we use partnerships to share knowledge and risk. If these countries are to reach the SDG’s our knowhow is crucial – both in terms of sustainable technological solutions and the right regulatory framework.


We have growth advisors posted in countries and markets where Denmark has specific political and commercial interest. The idea is to facilitate and support cooperation between Danish and local public institutions, to draw on Danish experience and to push local regulation in a better and more sustainable direction. It is our ambition that this also – in the longer term – will benefit Danish businesses.


In the developing and growing markets, knowhow is not enough. They also need financing. In these countries, Denmark can provide funding and risk sharing. Where public funding can be used to mobilize knowledge, networks, competencies and private funding, businesses must bring their knowledge into play and contribute to sustainable solutions.


A concrete instrument is Danida Business Finance. A Danish development program that provides interest free loans for investments in sustainable infrastructure. In a partnership with the Bangladeshi water authorities and other European donors, we are developing and financing a water treatment project that will provide clean water for almost 2 million people in Dhaka. It is probably the largest infrastructure project co-financed by European donors - with a total value of 474 million euros. The project could be a great platform for Danish and European contractors to showcase sustainable solutions. Here we would like to work together with you.


Danida Business Finance has a good track record of providing market access for Danish suppliers. In the 90ies and early 00es, Danida Business Finance financed several district heating projects in China. It gave China access to cutting edge Danish technology and improved living conditions for the Chinese population. And it gave Danish suppliers access to the Chinese market. Now these companies work on commercial terms in China.


Although this case dates back 20-25 years, it illustrates how tackling international development challenges can be good business. When public and private work together, sharing knowledge and sharing risk. Just like the SDG’s might turn out to be the business opportunity of the future.


Developing countries can be risky business – but we face an uncertain situation in the global market. With BREXIT and Trump, countries and markets we used to consider very reliable and familiar now seem more uncertain. Free markets are under pressure and protectionism is a constant risk we must fight.


But the world has committed itself to making lives better for everybody. The UN Sustainable Development Goals concerns not just developing countries but all of us. Sustainable market based solutions are in great demand - and they are good business. From Europe to Asia. There might be political bumps on the way that could slow down the pace, but the train has left the station.


The world is growing at a massive pace – and most of these people will move to cities. They will need our investments, our solutions and our partnership to make their lives better and more prosperous. I strongly believe that the future is in the hands of companies that innovate. Making a profit and improving lives for individuals at the same time.  Making progress for both business, cities and global society.


Thank you!