On June 22, 2023, Ambassador Leventhal delivered remarks at the annual meeting of the Danish Green Tech Association/Dansk Miljøteknologi. The theme his year was how development of innovative green technologies can spur economic growth, create export opportunities, and drive the green transition domestically and internationally. This is a theme that is uniquely relevant to both Denmark and the U.S. Both Denmark and the U.S. have many innovative companies with years of experience in green tech, and U.S. has the scale to really give these companies and partnerships between them an impact.
We would like to thank Dansk Miljøteknologi for their important work and for inviting Ambassador Leventhal to speak alongside Denmark’s Minister for Environment, Magnus Heunicke and Kirsten Brosbøl, Chairperson of the Danish Green Tech Association.
You can read Ambassador Leventhal’s full remark as prepared for delivery below.
Remarks by Ambassador Alan Leventhal at the Danish Green Tech Association Annual Meeting
The Black Diamond
June 22, 2023
[As prepared for delivery]
Thank you, Kirsten, for that kind introduction, and to the Danish Green Tech Association for inviting me to address your members today.
It’s inspiring to be the Ambassador in the Kingdom of Denmark when talking about topics including green technology and climate change.
Denmark has been at the forefront of the green transition for many years, setting ambitious climate goals, as the Minister mentioned. And the companies here today are helping private industry, governments, and, in some cases, even individual citizens of our amazing planet to ensure a greener future starts today.
In 2022, we learned that warming in the Arctic, including Greenland, had accelerated at double the pace it had just seven years earlier, from two times the global average in 2016 to four times faster than the global average last year.
That’s a huge acceleration in less than a decade.
If the ice sheet on Greenland melted today, sea levels across the globe would rise by 7.2 meters.
Cities including Amsterdam, Shanghai, Mumbai, Miami, New York, and New Orleans would be submerged.
An estimated 75 million people would have to relocate, find new homes, and new jobs. Cities absorbing those forced to relocate would face additional strains on resources, infrastructure, and public services.
At the same time as we face rising seas, we also face other challenges. Minister Heunicke touched on those such as drought and increased wildfires, water scarcity, and declining water quality.
Denmark is currently facing drought-like conditions in parts of the country, and so is the United States. According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and as of this week, approximately 20 percent of the U.S. territory is experiencing a drought. Regions in 40 of our 50 states are experiencing moderate or worse droughts. Canada is experiencing its worse wildfire season in its history, causing air quality alerts in the United States and even in Europe.
Our understanding about the sources and impacts of greenhouse gas emissions, and the tools we can use to mitigate them, will continue to develop over time.
And that is important because the better we understand the many factors at play, the more comprehensive our actions can be.
But we must acknowledge the bottom line: none of us can reverse this trend alone. Everyone has a role to play – governments, private industry, financial institutions, academia, innovators, and the public at large.
In short, the consequences of inaction are very real. And the time to act is now. President Biden has been a strong voice stating that climate change is an existential threat to humanity.
The United States has set its own ambitious goals, aiming to reduce our emissions by 50 percent by 2030, reach carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035, and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
Governments announcing these goals is important. Now we are in the difficult part — the implementation phase.
In the United States, a big part of that implementation will come through the Inflation Reduction Act or IRA, the biggest, most important climate bill in the history of our country.
This legislation includes support for clean electricity, everything from onshore and offshore wind, to distributed solar power generation, zero emissions vehicles, sustainable aviation fuels, more efficient electrified buildings, cleaner industrial processes and manufacturing, climate-smart agriculture and forestry, and more.
The IRA re-establishes the United States as a global climate leader that will drive innovation, and spur investment. For global players, like Denmark’s remarkable green industries represented here today, it also represents an incredible opportunity. The United States and the world need Denmark’s experience, and innovation. You know how to identify problems, come up with solutions, and get things done.
70 percent of the U.S. electricity grid is over 25 years old, and 60 percent of our distribution lines have already surpassed their 50-year life expectancy. We need to spend $2 trillion before 2030 just to keep the grid functioning. That’s investment greater than Italy’s annual GDP even before integrating new connections.
Water quantity, quality, purification, reuse, and control are increasingly important issues for communities across our country, from Flint, Michigan, to cities in Mississippi and South Carolina, all of which have experienced acute and prolonged water crises over the last decade. Texas, Illinois, and Kentucky all have experienced so-called 1,000-year flood events in the last 10 years.
These realities affect agriculture and food security across the globe. We have to learn to do more with less in agriculture, and have crops and systems that are resilient in the face of increasingly unpredictable weather patterns.
Minister Jacob Jensen participated in the Aim for Climate Ministerial in Washington last month. There, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry emphasized the need for innovative solutions to not only feeding the more than 8 billion people on earth, but also to creating even more modern, resilient, and prosperous food systems.
I expect Danish companies have or will have solutions to help address these challenges.
Today, there are more than 70,000 wind turbines operating in the United States. It’s absolutely remarkable that approximately one third of those turbines are Danish. And these are not where you might expect. When you look at the top five U.S. states in terms of installed turbines, you see Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Illinois. This underscores the bipartisan support for the green transition in the United States.
Even before the IRA was signed into law, the United States was making important progress, setting domestic records in 2021 for clean energy deployment. For example, new solar and wind projects that came online powered 10 million homes, and battery storage capacity to harness excess power from those projects was tripled.
And since the IRA was signed in August 2022, companies have announced investments of nearly $200 billion on more than 100 clean energy projects in 33 states.
Another thing I’d reiterate is that our states, cities, and municipalities have differing needs and capacities, so even if you can’t produce on the scale of Vestas or Ørsted, you can likely find a market of appropriate size in the United States that needs your solution. Danish companies including Aquaporin, SkyTEM, and Gehl Architects all found early success in the U.S. market.
Most of the news articles you’ve seen about the IRA have probably featured this number: $369 billion. What is important to recognize is that this number is just an estimate of the investment the United States will make in energy and climate incentives.
The estimate is probably low, particularly given the enthusiasm already shown for the IRA. As long as projects meet the standards and companies apply for the credits, they will be approved.
In short, the IRA’s impact is constrained only by private industry’s ambition and capacity.
I’d like to talk about another important theme in our race to address and adapt to the real pressures of climate change: innovation.
Our investments in technology, from electric batteries to hydrogen, are going to spark a cycle of innovation that will reduce the cost and improve the performance of clean energy technology available to all countries.
Although we have some clean and green technologies to drive the initial phases of the global green transition, continued improvement and new innovations are essential.
There is no one solution to the challenges we face. We will need thousands of innovations adapted to local needs and deployable at scale to confront this global challenge.
We all know that innovation isn’t simple. Sometimes innovations developed at universities stay there because the student or professor lacks the ability to take it from theory to practice and then on to the market.
In some of the fields essential to the green transition like clean energy, new materials, or biotechnology, these innovations are expensive to take from the lab to full development.
And then they often are slow to commercialize. The result? Venture capital is typically too impatient to support the innovations we desperately need.
We must support the culture of innovation and ensure that the solutions our academic institutions, small businesses, and others are developing can be scaled and deployed to real impact.
One of my priorities as Ambassador is to further develop transatlantic ties in those areas. The great academic institutions must focus not only on attracting and educating the best and brightest minds, but also take a lead in tackling the challenges we face today in energy, health, agriculture, and other fields.
As Allies committed to the principles of democracy, and which recognize the importance of the green transition, energy security, and responsible development of technologies to our shared future, it has never been more important for U.S. and Danish academic, industry, and government entities to deepen cooperation.
In closing, it’s so impressive to see such a distinguished group of leaders here today. While the threat of climate change looms large, I am encouraged by the broad attendance here.
You, your companies, and those on your teams are paving the road to a better future.
Thank you for all you are doing today and will do for our shared future. I look forward to your questions.