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Keynote speech at the International Forum for FutureCity 

Keynote speech at the International Forum for FutureCity by Danish Minister for Trade and Investment, Ms Pia Olsen Dyhr 

Dear Senior Vice Minister Goto, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great honour to be invited as keynote speaker at the International Forum on FutureCity Initiative.

In particular, it is a pleasure to open a conference with a topic as optimistic and forward looking as the concept of future cities less than a year after the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011. The approach to overcome both the effects of the earthquake and the challenges of the future cities testifies to the innovative and hardworking character and nature of the people of Japan.

It is my firm belief that Japan currently holds a unique opportunity in the sense that you are now in a position to shape Future Cities and communities that may serve as inspiration not only to other cities and regions within Japan but also regionally in Asia or globally for that matter. The initiative furthermore bears the promise of acting as an incubator for new collaborations between Japanese and international firms, including those from my own country Denmark.

Japan holds strong proven technological capabilities as well as being faced with some of the challenges seen in many other mature and well developed economies, in particular in relation to the aging or super aging of societies.

The horrendous events of "3-11", can be - or rather MUST be – used to instigate positive changes and progress that can affect the development and prosperity in the affected communities. Areas such as the implementation of new energy systems, the establishment of new and more sustainable housing and have this tightly knit into the new communities are obvious examples.

However, the FutureCity initiative is a much broader concept: an initiative that is also highly relevant to existing urban structures - cities that intend to align themselves not only with the technological developments and possibilities of today but also the needs and requirements of communities facing rapid demographic changes. In Japan’s as well as in Denmark’s case with rapidly aging population. In other words there are human as well as technological aspects.

My own country Denmark, alongside other Nordic countries, comes out on top in international "happiness" measurements. Although such measurements are not necessarily highly scientific, the consistency with which we score well across different measurements reveals that we must be doing something right.

The surveys reveal that we have a strong sense of friendship and community, a strong system of social support and the fact that we have a higher than average number of hours available for leisure activities and the facilities to support such activities - be it sports or other recreational or communal facilities.

Although a social system like the one we have created in Denmark over the years might not be easily replicated in a Japanese context, I do believe the international "happiness" findings speak for themselves and just perhaps there might be underlying values of a universal nature that may serve as inspiration for Japan and in particular in relation to the FutureCities initiative.

The world faces numerous challenges related to urbanisation. To create attractive cities in the future, it is a prerequisite that we solve the problems of global warming, limits to resources, energy scarcity and super-aging.

Today I have 3 key points:

Firstly, the technology solving these problems partly already exists. Using the city of Copenhagen as an illustration, I will provide you with examples showcasing some of these solutions within water- and waste management, district heating and transportation.

Secondly, even though technology plays a key role, it is important that framework conditions are actively employed as a tool to drive change.

Thirdly, no changes can be made by cities alone. Successful public-private-partnerships are a foundation for building future cities. I look forward to provide you with an example of a successful private-public-partnership involving a Japanese company and a Danish municipality.
In our approach to developing solutions for the future cities Denmark and Japan share a focus on environment and welfare for all urban citizens, but essentially we place the human being first. Technology is an aid and not a purpose in itself.

Both countries also focus on technology areas where we have developed specific competencies that deliver solutions solving some of the challenges experienced worldwide, such as the aging population or in the Danish case renewable energy and environmental technology. The idea is to adapt solutions that match the local conditions drawing on best case examples.

In Denmark renewable energy, energy efficiency and environmental protection have been integrated parts of city design for more than 30 years.

The Danish capital of Copenhagen with its population of less than 600.000 inhabitants is a living lab demonstrating solutions for future cities within areas such as water infrastructure, district heating and cooling, smart grid, waste handling and something as low tech as riding bicycles.

Copenhagen is a busy city with a lively port. Like many other cities, the water in the harbour used to be badly polluted both by the sewage system and the local industry. Through extensive modernisation of the sewage systems and diversion of rainwater, the harbour has become a clean oasis in the metropolitan centre. The water is now so clean that you can swim in it. During summer, when I ride my bike past the harbour, half the city population seems to be in the water.

This dedicated upgrade of water infrastructure has also led to improvements on the resource side. After continued upgrades water losses in pipelines are now reduced to less than 7%. In some countries the norm is as high as 40 or even 50%.

Copenhagen is also busy transforming waste into a resource. In Denmark less than 3 % of the waste is placed in landfills. In Copenhagen the figure is as low as 2%. The rest is recycled or burned in waste incinerators. Around 40 % of the waste incinerated is turned into electricity and heat at combined heat and power plants. This is a transformation that has taken place in a little more than two decades. In 1988 over 40 % of the waste was sent to landfills.

These days waste is becoming a scarce resource. We no longer make waste strategies, but focus on measures and technologies that can turn waste into valuable raw materials. Waste mining will become an industry of the future.

Once all the resources have been extracted, the remaining waste can be incinerated. Using waste in combined heat and power production in combination with district heating is one of the most energy efficient and climate friendly ways to produce energy, making it possible to use renewable energy with high efficiency at low prices for the heat customers. Through 1.500 km of double piped district heating net, approximately 500.000 inhabitants, or 98% of the city, is supplied with district heating.

Energy efficient district heating and increased use of renewables such as waste and wind has made Denmark a global leader in the development of new sustainable technologies and solutions. Since 1980 the Danish economy has grown by almost 80 per cent without increasing gross energy consumption. Most solutions behind this transformation involve advanced technology.

But "low tech" solutions also exist. In Copenhagen bicycles account for 30 % of the total amount of traffic in the city centre. Actually the bicycle infrastructure of Copenhagen is so renowned that for instance in Australia bicycle lanes are called "Copenhagen Lanes".

The use of something as low tech as bicycles in Copenhagen is a good indication that advanced technology is not the only remedy. Framework conditions that provide incentives towards behavioural change are also of key importance. Tariffs, taxes and regulations such as high cost of parking, congestion charges and energy taxes can all be employed as motivational factors supporting the increased use of bicycles. All contribute to creating environmentally friendly cities.

On a national level framework conditions should encourage increased use of renewable energy. Guaranteeing a higher feed in tariff for renewable energy sources during the initial implementation phase has been incremental in facilitating the installation of renewable energy sources in Denmark. Renewable now accounts for more than 22 per cent of total energy consumption in Denmark and more than 33 per cent of the electricity.

No vision of future cities can be realised without a high level of public involvement and support. This includes involvement in planning, decision making processes and design. The Danish island of Samsø serves as inspiration. In a little over 10 years its 4.500 inhabitants has turned the island into an almost fossil free society. 100 per cent of the electricity and 70 per cent of heating comes from renewable energy sources.

It is also important to be open to cooperation and new ideas. No city or country is able to develop all the necessary solutions on its own. Cooperation with companies, research institutions, local and national governments plays an increasingly important role in the development process. Especially public-private-partnerships are of utmost importance in order to secure high level innovation.

The challenges associated with aging and increasing pressure on welfare are good examples of the relevance of public-private-partnerships. Denmark and Japan share many of the same challenges associated with super aging cities and societies. For years there has been a high level of cooperation between companies in our two countries, developing solutions within welfare technology.

An excellent example is the Japanese company Tmsuk that has started to cooperate with the small Danish municipality of Faaborg to develop robotic solutions aimed at the city’s elderly care. Likewise Panasonic has established cooperation with both the municipality of Aarhus and Odense. Based on technology jointly developed in Denmark and Japan, the public-private-partnership shows a way forward in addressing some of the challenges of the future cities.

It is my hope that the potential for increased corporation between companies, R&D institutions and municipalities from our two countries will be a tool for developing more solutions for future cities and the basis of a closer cooperation between Denmark, the EU and Japan in the years to come.

Thank you for your attention.