British Embassy in Denmark cuts carbon emissions
Katrine Dalsgård of 10:10 Denmark spoke to Deputy Head of Mission Simon Wood to find out how the British embassy in Copenhagen cut its CO2 emissions, most notably within transport, with support from the 10:10 campaign.
This article was originally published in Danish on the 10:10 Denmark blog and has been translated by Gavyn Edmunds.
A companion piece from 10:10 this month looks at how the Danish Embassy in London also cut its emissions. In a talk at the 10:10 HQ on 11th August, Owen Richards, Sustainable Operations Manager for the FCO, will explain how British Embassies around the world have produced some of the best 10:10 results to date.
Where diplomats ride at the front
The British Embassy in Denmark Staff participated in the “Bike to Work” campaign. Photo: The British Embassy, Copenhagen.
An overall cut in CO2 emissions by a whopping 27%! That’s what the British Embassy in Denmark achieved last year. Based on 10:10′s original goal, Deputy Head of Mission Simon Wood describes with pride and enthusiasm how embassy staff set a common target of reducing their carbon emissions by 10% in 2010:
“And once we got to that point it went even better. You would have thought that once the target was reached that people would begin to relax. But that wasn’t the case. On the contrary, we were more motivated. It then became a case of going as far as possible”.
The embassy made its most significant CO2 savings within transport. Instead of routinely flying to meetings with central government in London or other Nordic and Baltic embassies, staff took advantage of video conferencing. For trips within Denmark, taking the train has been favoured over flying. Within Copenhagen the Embassy reduced the use of taxis, providing staff with bus and metro vouchers instead. Where taxis have been necessary, the Embassy has used a carbon-neutral taxi firm. They have also reduced their own fleet of vehicles, while those cars which remain on the road are used significantly less. The Embassy has instead invested in bikes which employees can use when travelling to meetings within the capital. Such as with the Danish Foreign Office in the Christianshavn district of Copenhagen.
“And of course we joined the ‘Bike to Work’ campaign which had just started”, says Simon. “As London is host for the Olympic Games in 2012, our goal was to reach 2012 km. Right now [27 May 2011], we’re up to 1965 km”.
Another area in which the Embassy has made large carbon-savings is in energy use. Simon explains:
“We’re housed in an old building which ideally should be renovated. Unfortunately, we don’t have the necessary finances to install solar panels for example. But 10:10 has inspired us to focus our efforts on those areas where individual employees can make a real, everyday difference”.
Employees are now consistent in switching off lights when leaving a room and the Embassy has stopped heating rooms which are not in use. The Embassy’s control systems have also been significantly improved.
However, participation in 10:10 extends beyond the Embassy itself. Employees are careful to reduce their CO2 emissions even in staff residencies within Copenhagen, for example, by reducing the use of tumble dryers. “Everybody involved has been extremely motivated to take part in 10:10”, states Simon, explaining how “the campaign makes it very clear the difference which can be made as an individual and an organization. That makes the CO2 work straightforward”.
The success of the British Embassy in Copenhagen shows how much can be achieved when there is strong support from higher up the organizational ladder. “Back home in London various ministries and government offices began signing up to 10:10 soon after its launch in September 2009”, explains Simon. This also applied to the embassy in Copenhagen, which at that time was engaged in the preparations for COP15. In February 2010, the British Foreign Office announced that it would be joining 10:10 and just a few days after their election in May 2010, the British Government itself announced that they would be signing up to 10:10, something which has been important for motivation. “People have felt like active members of a large, common project”, says Simon.
The British government’s efforts to reduce their own CO2 emissions should be considered alongside the UK’s ambitious goals of a 34% cut in carbon emissions by 2020 and a 50% cut by 2025 (based on 1990 levels). “We really want to show that we mean it when we talk about the necessity of behavioural change. That can be done best by taking various concrete actions” explains Simon, who also points out that the underwhelming result of COP15 only encouraged embassy staff further. “We didn’t want to become paralysed by disappointment. COP15 made it even more important for us to show that there’s a point in taking action”.
Through creating a CO2 calculator especially designed for use by its embassies and consulates across the world, the British Foreign Office made it particularly clear to its employees where they should start. In such a way they were singing from the same hymn sheet as 10:10 from the very beginning. “10:10 has set some very clear and achievable goals and made it easy for individuals and organizations to gauge the results of their work”, states Simon.
British Embassies across the globe have signed up to 10:10 with carbon cuts from Santiago in Chile to Beijing in China. Nordic and Baltic embassies have produced impressive results and the Danish Embassy can boast of being amongst the big hitters. “And although we no longer have such specific goals as in 2010, we intend to continue the good work in 2011 and beyond”, says Simon who listens with interest when we speak about the National Work from Home Day which 10:10 Denmark recently helped organise.
Simon looks forward to continuing the cooperation between the UK and Denmark in climate and environmental questions. Both politically and economically the environment is now one of the two countries’ key areas of cooperation and Simon predicts that this will be reinforced further when Denmark takes over the Presidency of the EU in 2012.
Both before and after that happens, Simon wants to enjoy his daily contribution to solving the problem of climate change when he bikes to and from his job in Copenhagen. “Denmark is a great place to bike”, he says, “in the winter I even discovered that it’s possible to bike when it snows, the council clear the bike lanes,” adding that “foreign diplomats can easily do much more for the climate. Why not follow Denmark’s ‘best practice’”?
At 10:10 Denmark we are in complete agreement and at the same time extremely happy and proud to hear such from a foreign diplomat. We rush to repay the compliment and ask ”many governments could easily do much more for the climate. Why not follow the UK’s ‘best practice’”?
Finally and in truly diplomatic fashion, it should be pointed out that the Danish Embassy in London can also pride itself over its results! Read more on that in this companion piece.
Do you have a comment on this page?
All comments are moderated: we will not publish irrelevant or inappropriate comments. Please note that we require your email to validate your message and will not publish it or use it for any other purpose.