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Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting me to open the Copenhagen Consensus Conference 2008.
Copenhagen Consensus is a simple, but powerful idea: The world faces a number of serious challenges. We only have limited means to solve them. Where should we start?
The ambition of Copenhagen Consensus is to provide the knowledge to make this prioritization. Indeed Copenhagen Consensus is based on a strong belief that knowledge matters. That research and information can be used in practical decision making. And that it should be used.
This is a belief that I share. No problem has ever been solved by throwing money at it. We must prioritize carefully. We must base our decisions on solid knowledge.
We owe this to the millions of people all over the world who struggle with hunger, disease and war.
And Copenhagen Consensus provides us with a positive message: That to many of the worlds’ serious problems there do exist good solutions.
Because the results of Copenhagen Consensus are so concrete, and because they are based on solid knowledge, the results provide a valuable insight for politicians. An insight that is in fact used by policy makers.
This is the experience from the first Copenhagen Consensus conference. In 2004 the Copenhagen Consensus expert panel assigned the highest priority to new measures to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
This led the Danish Government to increase the amount spent on activities to combat HIV/AIDS. In the following year 2005 we decided to increase spending on HIV/AIDS within our development assistance up to 500 million Danish kroner.
We have since increased spending on fighting HIV/AIDS with 100 million kroner every year to currently around 800 million. Our aim is to increase further up to 1 billion Danish kroner in 2010
Copenhagen Consensus has not only inspired the Danish government. There has been an outstanding interest all over the world.
In 2006 the Copenhagen Consensus Center arranged a prioritization conference with a number of UN ambassadors. In 2007 the centre arranged a prioritization conference in Latin America. And I understand that a number of countries in Africa are interested in your approach.
Copenhagen Consensus has not only created concrete political results. It has also initiated a heated debate. And this is not just because the name of the Director is Bjørn Lomborg. No, it is in particular because your ideas are concrete and useful. That is what politicians need in the difficult process of decision-making and prioritization.
Of course, seeking an informed foundation for decision making does not mean that responsibility for political priorities can be handed over to professors of economics and Nobel laureates. Political decision-making and prioritization remains the duty of responsible governments.
And let there be no doubt about the position of my government when it comes to the challenge of making priorities: We are fully aware of our responsibility to take difficult decisions. And we are aware that solid knowledge is a precondition in order to make the right choice.
Our development aid to Africa is a clear example of prioritization. Denmark is among the top donors of development assistance. And we will further increase our assistance over the coming years. The aim of the Danish government is that 2/3 of our bilateral assistance will be directed to Africa.
Africa faces major challenges. But we are also witnessing significant positive progress. Such as continuing growth and improvements when it comes to good governance in many African countries. My hope is to see an Africa where freedom, democracy, peace and development prevail.
Still, there is a need for a more effective international development cooperation with Africa. To this end, I have established an Africa Commission, which will present its recommendations in May next year.
I have no doubt that the Copenhagen Consensus results will be a valuable resource to make use of in the work of the Africa Commission.
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During recent years we have witnessed dramatic effects of climate upheaval. The evidence from the UN Climate Change Panel is convincing. I believe the case for action is strong. The conclusions are clear: Global warming is a fact. And man made emissions are the primary cause.
I sincerely believe that we must take climate change – and its effects – very seriously indeed. And that global climate change requires a global solution.
That is why Denmark has offered to host the global climate change conference in Copenhagen in 2009.
One thing is clear: If we are to tackle climate change we will need to cut green house gas emissions. We must reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.
There is one more essential reason why we need to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels: security.
Unfortunately, the world’s free societies rely heavily on imported oil and gas, often from unstable countries and regions. Each and every year huge amounts of wealth is transferred from the world’s democracies to dubious regimes with questionable ideas of freedom and democracy.
We then become vulnerable when these regimes use their oil exports as a foreign policy tool. By curbing our dependency on fossil fuel imports, we will become more robust and less exposed to the whims of others.
We must break our addiction to oil. We need a new industrial revolution based on climate-friendly technologies. A new green industrial revolution. A new green global economy.
The challenge is to reduce our fossil fuel consumption while maintaining economic growth and prosperity. For developing countries because they have a right to fight poverty by increasing their economic growth. For industrialized countries because only continued economic growth will give us resources and technology to combat climate change.
We need to make a transition to a low-carbon economy.
However, this transition must take place in a cost-efficient way. We must prioritize. We must make sure that we take those measures that will benefit climate, environment and security the most.
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Distinguished members of the Copenhagen Consensus Expert Panel,
I am looking forward to the results of the Copenhagen Consensus 2008. I understand that this year you will also focus on women and development, air pollution, terrorism and peace keeping operations.
I look forward to getting inspired by your ideas and recommendations. On how we best can improve the conditions of millions of people all over the world.
I wish you a fruitful and enlightening Conference.