Climate Neutrality – if we can, you can too

A two-day conference held at SDU in Sønderborg demonstrated how the local community practices climate neutrality

- In our region we demonstrate that climate neutrality is doable. This is the key message of a two-day conference on 100% climate neutrality that took place on October 6-7 at the University of Southern Denmark in Sønderborg at Alsion. This message resulted from two days of intense discussions among 200 politicians, scientists, and citizens from Flensburg, Sønderborg, and many other places in the world, and it will be taken from Sønderborg to Paris and enter into the COP21 discussions as an urge to draw heavily upon the contribution of all cities and communities of the world when it comes to finding strong ways of action for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Among top cities addressing climate challenge

The overall aim of the conference was to spread the knowledge about the achievements of the region - including achievements across the border to Schleswig Holstein - addressing challenge number one of our century: How to react on and minimize global warming?

Sønderborg and Flensburg aim in becoming CO2 neutral cities by 2029 and 2050, respectively. Both cities and their regions can take advantage of a broad range of activities, including citizens, politicians, and also scientists and thus they rank within the top cities in the world that address the climate challenge.

Newest facts and different perspectives on climate change

Welcome speeches from the three vice-chancellors of the universities involved opened the conference: Henrik Dam for the University of Southern Denmark, Werner Reinhart for the Europa Universität Flensburg, and Holger Watter for Flensburg University of Applied Sciences.

After this, the first day of the conference offered different perspectives on climate changes. These were delivered by Jens Hesselbjerg Christensen (Danish Climate Centre), Magdalena Joszwicka (the European Environmental Agency), Jørgen Mads Clausen, Chairman of the board of Danfoss A/S, Pelle Lind Bournonville from Realdania, Stefanie Lose from the Region of Southern Denmark, Hans-Joachim Ziesing (The Ecologic Institute in Berlin), and Jessica Suplie (The German Ministry for the Environment). The day was closed with a panel discussion and a talk by Peter Rathje from ProjectZero.

Important messages from Connie Hedegaard

The second day of the conference was initiated with a talk by the former Minister for the Environment in Denmark, Connie Hedegaard, and a report of Jossy Thomas from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. Connie Hedegaard pinpointed three main action areas for a positive influence of politics on climate neutrality: set correct targets, standards and regulations; set appropriate economic incentives (‘tax what you burn, not what you earn’); and enable long term and cross-cutting thinking. 

Afterwards the attendants of the conference engaged in specialized workshops addressing the specific problems that follow from the overall problematics of climate neutrality and the wish to become a more energy saving planet.

The first climate neutrality conference of many

This conference has been the first on 100% climate neutrality and it triggers a series that will be continued every other year in Sønderborg.  In the years in between, a similar conference on 100% renewables will be performed in Flensburg. The conference was only made possible due to the intense interaction between University of Southern Denmark, European University Flensburg, Flensburg University of Applied Sciences, Klimapakt Flensburg, and Project Zero. In addition, the municipality of Sønderborg and the CLEAN cluster have played an extraordinarily important role in setting the stage for the conference.