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Speech by Danish Development minister Søren Pind Conference on Green Growth, Nairobi, 31 January 2011

The spoken word counts

You’re Excellencies - government and development partners - Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be back in Kenya. The pulse of Nairobi reminds me of the drive and entrepreneurship that I believe will shape the new Africa and carry the transformation of African societies into the future.

Africa changes these years. In terms of economy Africa is the fastest growing continent in the world. Since 2000 the 50-plus African countries have grown five per cent each year. We know that Africa’s population is growing fast as well. Yet the economies grow even faster and for the first time in decades we see positive per capita growth.

Larger populations and bigger economies put pressure on the environment and natural resources. Today almost a billion people live in Africa. Africa has the youngest population on earth and is the region with the fastest growing population.

When I flew over Africa last night I noted how few lights one sees from the air in contrast to the dense pattern of lights in Europe. Just five per cent of Africa’s people have access to electricity and light. One day every African – more than a billion people – will have access to lights. Needless to say, so many people cannot be provided with electricity using high-carbon fossil fuels. We need to give the African people light and electricity in a smarter way.

It is not an easy task to provide a billion people with lights and electricity without relying entirely on oil and coal. It’s difficult. But it is also an immense opportunity.

African societies have a once in the history chance to take the best of experiences from the developed world and combine it with “thinking smart”. This is basically what Green Growth is all about: building new societies on democratic values; use sustainable approaches to growth; and applying the right technologies at the right place and time.

Moving the Green Growth agenda forward is becoming one of the defining political, commercial and intellectual projects of our time. The need to change the way we do business is understood worldwide. Let me give you two examples: firstly US president Barack Obama’s recent State of the Union address had a strong focus on a green growth strategy, aimed at creating jobs and exports through clean forms of energy like solar, biofuels as well as ”clean coal”; and secondly our own Danish independent Commission on Climate Change Policy with the aim to prepare a blue print for making Denmark independent of fossil fuels by 2050.

How can we best assist Africa in approaching a Green Growth path?
Transfer of new technologies and investments are essential for transformation. We need the private sector to be more engaged within a solid policy framework which provides incentives at global and national levels for long term growth. We need private and concessionary capital, and we need risk willing and innovative entrepreneurs. This conference is about, how we design these elements in a coherent fashion.

The green growth agenda is an entrance for action. Clearly Africa needs to grow to provide decent living conditions for its population - This can best happen by thinking “smart” on future energy solutions. Luckily, Africa has vast amounts of renewable energy resources like its sun, rivers, winds, waves etc. The transformation of African societies into modern low-carbon energy users cannot be more timely. The needed adjustments are technically feasible and politically realistic. As development partners we must provide the appropriate technical solutions and together with the private sector, the needed amounts of investments. Kenya is a good example. A number of investments are being planned and will hopefully go ahead, e.g. the Lake Turkana wind farm (turbines to be provided by Vestas) and new geo-thermal power plants, will dramatically increase the energy production and the proportion of low-emission and renewable energy production in the Kenyan energy sector.

But green growth is also good economics. Using technologies that cut energy consumption in production is an important part of cutting production costs. This again helps companies to stay competitive.

The world-wide network of Climate Innovation Centres is important for developing the right technologies to spur continued sustainable growth.
We are pleased to see that the Kenyan government is taking the lead here, because without national ownership and conviction green growth becomes just another buzz word in development jingo. We are equally pleased to spear head this initiative together with the World Bank that has clout and expertise needed.

I wish you good luck with this endeavour.

Thank you very much.