Measuring the potential of local green growth: An analysis of Greater Copenhagen


Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, delivered at the launch of the forthcoming OECD report
"Measuring the potential of local green growth: An analysis of Greater Copenhagen"

Copenhagen, Monday 8 October 2012

(As prepared for delivery)

Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, Ladies and Gentleman,

It is a pleasure to be here again in Copenhagen. Copenhageners are often called the happiest people on the planet, and I can certainly see why.

Unfortunately, today’s topic is a somber one and of crucial importance. I am here to present some highlights from the forthcoming OECD report on Measuring the potential of local green growth: An analysis of Greater Copenhagen. This report is one part of our efforts to develop more effective tools for measuring cities’ progress and monitoring the impact of green policies.  

While our initial findings are promising, we are still on a collision course with nature. Failure to responsibly manage the natural assets upon which our life depends will have serious economic and social consequences. Our recent Environmental Outlook to 2050 projects that, without immediate action, by 2050 we will see a 50% increase in greenhouse gas emissions, with a disastrous impact on the well-being of people worldwide.

We are also living in stormy times. Our economies have yet to fully recover from the crisis.  We have to find innovative ways to foster new sources of growth and new sources of jobs. At the OECD, we believe that if we go green, we mobilise the economy. Our Green Growth Strategy provides a comprehensive call for action and a practical way forward. It offers a conceptual framework and indicators for governments to better monitor progress.

We know that on our rapidly urbanising planet, cities are part of the solution and we are now testing this framework at the sub-national level. Copenhagen is our pilot test. I take the opportunity to thank Copenhagen Capacity and the City of Copenhagen for their support of the study.

Let me share some of our initial findings.


1. First, let’s be clear: Copenhagen is a success story and cities around the world have much to learn from this success. Its urban infrastructure has become a model for sustainable transport and has greased the wheels of the city’s economy. In particular, the bicycle-sharing strategy has created significant economic gains. Shifting from vehicle to bicycle has enabled the city to avoid pollution costs, saving approximately USD 20 million from the reduced impacts of congestion. Copenhagen is also well known for its Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant which provides a renewable source of heat for 98% of Copenhagen households. Lord Mayor Jensen, I remember pretty well how participants of our Roundtable of Mayors and Ministers were impressed when you presented your experience.

Copenhagen’s green approach stretches from the corners of its neighbourhoods to the corridors of its industries. Copenhagen’s world-renowned clean-tech industry is energizing the city’s economy. The Copenhagen Clean Tech Park, the birthplace of Denmark’s wind industry, now hosts over 610 companies with expertise in efficient and renewable energy, water and wastewater, and recycling.

At a time when the Green sceptics challenge the Green economy, Copenhagen’s growing clean-tech sector creates new opportunities. Industries in this sector are involved in activities related to energy efficiency, renewable energy, water and wastewater treatment as well as waste and recycling. Last year, they produced a combined turnover of over 30 billion Euros – impressive! And they employed 34,000 workers.

Surely this is just the beginning. Despite uncertain economic conditions, 44% of companies related to clean-tech experienced employment growth in 2010. Green investment is driving new business opportunities, and in the process generating demand for both new jobs and different types of jobs. This is what green growth looks like!

2. But Copenhagen cannot rest on its laurels: action is required for the city to retain its competitive edge. Cities are competing head-to-head as they attempt to give their own domestic companies a running start in an emerging and lucrative marketplace of the future.

In our study, we suggest a number of strategies to ensure Copenhagen’s leadership in the market.

  • Accelerating the transfer and diffusion of new knowledge and technology will further support Copenhagen’s innovative companies. Copenhagen clean-tech companies already collaborate through a close-knit network of companies and knowledge institutions. But further could be done to strengthen links between small and medium-sized enterprises and universities. For instance, Copenhagen could be inspired by the Milwaukee Water Council in the Chicago Region. This Council grew out of a recognition that local water technology firms needed to be better connected with university research facilitates in the metro-region. Now with over 100 members, the networking and knowledge-sharing efforts of the council have made the Chicago region the top clean-tech water technologies cluster in the United States.
  • Mobilising financial resources to help the region exploit its existing strengths and competitive advantages. Denmark’s public and private financial institutions as well as local institutions like Copenhagen Capacity can provide essential support to innovative mature firms and newer companies alike. Connecting the Clean-Tech cluster with financial institutions can also help create a virtuous cycle for investment. As banks gain a better understanding of the work of clean-tech firms, they can provide better advice to develop the competitiveness of the cluster, which in turn can improve access to venture capital. This dynamic could help attract FDI and new firms to the area.
  • A number of steps can help strengthen Copenhagen’s attractiveness to foreign investments. The impressive networking infrastructure created for the Clean Technology Cluster could be further developed by providing specialised knowledge-intensive service activities to both mature innovative firms and start-ups. For example, strategic assistance on intellectual property rights, particularly with patents in emerging markets like China and India, can provide a valuable service for smaller clean-tech firms.
  • Showcasing Copenhagen’s novel urban solutions, such as the innovative repurposing of its industrial harbours, will help to encourage more projects and attract investment to Copenhagen’s Clean-tech Cluster. Other cities are engaged in such strategies; the City of Stockholm is using the redevelopment of its Royal Seaport to showcase local clean-tech innovations, such as its smart-metering and smart grid technologies.

3. Last but not least, our study provides the first results of using the OECD Green Growth indicator framework at the local level. Indicators are important because they allow us to benchmark the crucial elements and outcomes of our policies.

There is a wide range of available indicators for Copenhagen. They include for example per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, energy and water consumption, regional waste collection, and treatment of contaminated land. But there is also data on research and development expenditures, green patents, employment, and turnover in environmental goods and services.

Our dashboard shows the city is ahead of both Danish and OECD averages. For example, municipal waste collection amounts to 247 kg per capita annually, much less than the OECD average of 540 kg, and 830 kg in Denmark.

Yet further efforts are needed to enrich this dataset. For instance, consistent data sources on green growth employment and value of turnover, amongst other areas, is still lacking to help provide a clear assessment of Copenhagen’s trajectory.

Ladies and Gentleman,

As the city of Copenhagen demonstrates, going green delivers many benefits, in terms of productivity and employment. I encourage the local institutions to continue to push the boundaries in these matters and to support its clean-tech industry in its efforts to build a stronger, cleaner and brighter future.

Thank you for your attention.



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