Climate Change: Developing Asia Drives Industrial Heat Demand

February 25, 2018

By Élie Bellevrat and Kira West

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Industrial heat makes up two-thirds of industrial energy demand and almost one-fifth of global energy consumption. It also constitutes most of the direct industrial CO2 emitted each year, as the vast majority of industrial heat originates from fossil-fuel combustion.

Yet despite these impressive figures, industrial heat is often missing from energy analyses. That is why this year’s World Energy Outlook takes a deep dive in this important segment of our energy system.

While industrial heat demand – at all temperature levels – grows in the central scenario of the World Energy Outlook 2017, the underlying drivers are different depending on temperature requirements. Low- and medium-temperature heat (below 400C) is expected to account for three-quarters of the growth in heat demand in industry by 2040, driven by less energy-intensive industries.

This is a reversal of historical trends: in the last 25 years, high-temperature heat represented two-thirds of overall heat demand growth, driven by China’s rapid development of heavy industries such as steel and cement. That said, developing Asia continues to drive industrial heat demand growth in our outlook: the growth in low- to medium-temperature needs in this region alone represents about half of the global industrial heat demand increase in use to 2040.

Low-temperature heat use grows in most regions through 2040, except in the European Union and Japan. The outlook for high-temperature heat varies even more across regions, including among developing countries. It decreases in China with the country’s shift to a less energy-intensive development pathway, while it increases in India as the country becomes, by large distance, the main global driver.

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As industrial heat demand continues to grow so does its share in energy-related CO2 emissions, accounting for a quarter of global emissions by 2040. Any efforts taken to reduce this global trend face unique challenges. First, industrial heat is often generated on-site, making it more difficult to regulate than a more centralized sector such as large thermal power generation. There is also limited policy focus in this area compared with other sectors.

Second, while heating needs for residential and commercial buildings are fairly standard, industrial heat encompasses a wide variety of temperature levels for diverse processes and end-uses. For instance, cement kilns require high-temperature, while drying or washing applications in the food industry operate at lower temperatures.


Different technology and fuel options are available depending on the required temperature level, but these are often not interchangeable. For example, low-temperature heat from a heat pump cannot be substituted for high-temperature heat from a gas boiler.

Today’s industrial heat demand relies mainly on fossil fuels, biomass and electricity, and only very small shares of renewable resources in certain sectors. Therefore decarbonisation would require a dramatic shift in how industrial heat is generated. Yet this goal is instrumental to following a low-carbon development pathway as defined in the Sustainable Development Scenario, a new global scenario providing an integrated way to achieve three critical policy goals simultaneously: climate stabilisation, cleaner air and universal access to modern energy. The best option for reducing energy use of industrial heat will depend on the specific use and required temperature.

In his seminal classic, Geopolitics of Technology, prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic states: “…, the main problem with Green/Renewable (de-carbonized) energy is not the complexity, expense, or the lengthy time-line for fundamental technological breakthrough; the central issue is that it calls for a major geopolitical breakthrough. .. Ergo, oil (and gas) represents far more than energy. Petroleum (be it a finite biogenic mineral or not) is a socio-economic, psychological, cultural, financial, security and politico-military construct, a phenomenon of civilization … In a broader historical, more vertical or philosophical sense, the hydrocarbons and its scarcity phychologization, its monetization (and related weaponization) is serving rather a coercive and restrictive status quo than a developmental incentive. That essentially calls not for an engagement but compliance…”

Fuel switching can provide some benefit, for instance substituting gas for coal, but for more ambitious climate targets more transformative solutions are needed. For example, under certain conditions, electrification can be a low-cost and sustainable option ­– heat pumps can be economical solutions for low- and medium-temperature needs. Electrification may also be possible for specific high-temperature industrial processes, such as electricity-based steel production. However the sustainability of electrification depends on broad decarbonisation of the power sector to actually reduce emissions at the system level.

Direct renewable heat sources such as solar and geothermal can also be economical for applications below 400 degrees Celsius, but they are not easy to integrate in all industrial facilities. Bioenergy can be used for high-temperature heat demand, but is resource-constrained and only economical and sustainable under certain operating conditions and in certain regions.

Industrial heat can be decarbonised through the deployment of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS). This can include, for instance, technologies to remove CO2 emissions from flue gas before recycling the CO2 in industrial processes, such as for methanol production, or storing it permanently.

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Finally, end-use efficiency, through the use of modern equipment, improved insulation or heat recovery, can reduce final demand before the heat is even generated – often, limiting overall heat requirements is the first strategy adopted, before taking actions to decarbonise remaining heat use.

Ultimately, widespread deployment of energy efficiency and a least cost mix of these options can point to a more sustainable future for industrial heat. Putting the appropriate regulatory framework in place will be key to ensuring that investments are targeted in a way that makes this future possible.

Élie Bellevrat and Kira West are World Energy Organization analysts. An early version of this was published by the International Energy Agency


Fareed Zakaria: Trump has drawn three red lines that are bound to be crossed

February 5, 2018

Fareed Zakaria: Trump has drawn three red lines that are bound to be crossed

by Dr, Fareed Zakaria

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NEW YORK — President Trump’s State of the Union speech mostly ignored the world outside of America. He made a few tough statements on things like the Iran deal and Guantanamo and described (accurately) the evil nature of the North Korean regime, but he said very little about his foreign policy. This masks a more dangerous reality. The Trump administration has in fact, either accidentally or by design, laid out aggressive markers in three different parts of the world — three red lines — without any serious strategy as to what happens when they are crossed.

The first is with North Korea. Trump and his top officials have asserted that the era of “strategic patience” with North Korea is over. They have ruled out any prospect of accepting North Korea as a nuclear state and believe traditional deterrence will not work. The president has specifically promised that North Korea would never be able to develop a nuclear weapon that could reach the United States. Meanwhile, CIA Director Mike Pompeo says Pyongyang is “a handful of months” away from having this capability.

Image result for State Department Victor ChaDr.Victor Cha is a Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University, Washington DC and served as Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council under President George W. Bush.
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So what happens when that red line is crossed? What would be the American response? Victor Cha, a seasoned expert who was expected to be the nominee for ambassador to South Korea, explained to the administration that there really is no limited military option, not even a small strike that would “bloody” the nose of the North Korean regime. For this frank analysis, he was promptly dropped from consideration for the ambassadorship.

Cha simply raised the fundamental problem with the Trump administration’s approach. It has outlined maximalist goals without any sense of how to achieve them. In response to North Korea’s new capabilities, would Trump really rain down “fire and fury” and “totally destroy North Korea”?

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Trump has done something similar with Iran. He has announced that he will withdraw from the nuclear deal if Congress and the European allies don’t fix it. The Europeans have made clear they don’t think the pact needs fixing and believe it is working well. In about three months, we will reach D-Day, when Trump has promised to unilaterally withdraw if he can’t get a tougher deal.

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Were Trump to unilaterally abrogate the accord, the Iranians have several options. They could pull out themselves and ramp up their nuclear program, which would mean the Trump administration would have to deal with another North Korea, this time in the Middle East. Or Iran could simply sideline the United States, keep adhering to the deal, and do business with the rest of the world. Most likely, Tehran would make the United States pay a price by using its considerable influence to destabilize Iraq, which is entering a tumultuous election season.

The third arena where the White House has talked and acted tough without any follow-on strategy is Pakistan. The administration has publicly branded that country a terrorist haven and suspended military aid on those grounds. This is an entirely understandable impulse, because the Pakistani military has in fact been supporting terrorists and militants who operate in Afghanistan, even against American troops, and then withdraw to their sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan. As then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen noted in 2011, one of these terrorist groups “acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.”

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Demonstrators shout slogans in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital during a protest in Peshawar, Pakistan Dec. 12, 2017.

But being right is not the same thing as being smart. Most experts predicted that Pakistan would respond to the American action in two ways: First, by pursuing closer relations with China, which can easily replace the aid. Second, the Pakistani military would ratchet up the violence in Afghanistan, demonstrating that it has the capacity to destabilize the pro-American government in Kabul, throw the country into chaos and tie down the U.S. forces that are now in their 17th year of war. And that’s what has happened. China immediately voiced support for Pakistan after the American announcement. And in the last two weeks, Afghanistan has suffered a spate of horrific terror attacks.

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Thomas Schelling, the Nobel-prize winning scholar of strategy, once remarked that two things are very expensive in international affairs: threats when they fail, and promises when they succeed. So, he implied, be very careful about making either one. President Trump seemed to understand this when his predecessor made a threat toward Syria in 2013, and Trump tweeted, “Red line statement was a disaster for President Obama.” Well, he’s just drawn three red lines of his own, and each of them is likely to be crossed.

Fareed Zakaria is a columnist for The Washington Post and host of Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN.

Wealth Concentration Continues to Increase

January 23, 2018

Wealth Concentration Continues to Increase

SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, January 23, 2018 (IPS) – As the ‘masters of the universe’ gather for their annual retreat at Davos, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has just published its Inclusive Development Index (IDI) for the second time.

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After moderating from the 1920s until the 1970s, inequality has grown with a vengeance from the 1980s as neoliberal ascendance unleashing regressive reforms on various fronts.

Sensing the growing outrage at earlier neo-liberal reforms and their consequences, as well as the financial sector bail-outs and fiscal austerity after the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, politicians and business leaders have expressed concerns about inequality’s resurgence.

The record is more nuanced. While national level inequalities have grown in most economies over the last four decades, international income disparities between North and South have actually narrowed, largely due to growth accelerations in much of the latter.

But while income inequality trends have been mixed, wealth concentration has picked up steam, recently enabled by the low cost of credit, thanks to ‘unconventional monetary policies’ in the North.

According to the World Inequality Report 2018, the top 1% in the world had twice as much income growth as the bottom half since 1980. Meanwhile, income growth has been sluggish or even flat for those with incomes between the bottom half and the top 1%. Oxfam’s new Reward Work, Not Wealth report reveals that the world’s wealthiest 1% got 82% of the wealth generated in 2017, while the bottom 50% saw no increase at all!

The world’s 500 richest, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, became US$1 trillion richer during 2017, “more than four times” the gain in 2016, as their wealth increased by 23%, taking their combined fortunes to US$5.3 trillion. According to the UBS/PwC Billionaires Report 2017, there are now 1,542 US dollar billionaires in the world, after 145 more joined their ranks in 2016.

Worsening wealth inequality

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Meanwhile, the latest Credit Suisse Report found that the world’s richest 1% increased their share of total wealth from 42.5% at the height of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis to 50.1% in 2017, or US$140 trillion.

It shows that the bottom half together owned less than 1% of global wealth, while the richest 10% owned 88% of all wealth, and the top 1% alone accounted for half of all assets. Thus, global household debt rose by nearly 5% in 2017 despite total wealth increasing by US$16.7 trillion, or 6.4%.

The Report attributes this to uneven asset price inflation with financial asset prices growing much faster than non-financial asset values. Recent unconventional monetary policies of the world’s major central banks contributed to such asset price inflation.

The European Central Bank has acknowledged that quantitative easing (QE) has fuelled asset price inflation. Kevin Warsh, a former US Federal Reserve Board member, has argued that QE has only worked through the ‘asset price channel’, enriching those who own financial assets, not the 96% who mainly rely on income from labour.

An IMF study found that ‘fiscal consolidation’, typically involving austerity, has significantly worsened inequality, depressed labour income shares and increased long-term unemployment.

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MOZAMBIQUE, Beira, Grande Hotel, opened 1955 during portuguese colonial time, today some thousand homeless people living here.

Another IMF research report shows that capital account liberalization — typically recommended to attract foreign capital inflows without due attention to the consequences of sudden outflows — has generally significantly and persistently increased national-level inequalities.

The World Inequality Report 2018 also observed that rising income inequality has largely been driven by unequal wealth ownership. Privatization in most countries since the 1980s has resulted in negative ‘public wealth’ — public assets minus public debt — in rich countries, even as national wealth has grown substantially. Over recent decades, countries have become richer as governments have become poorer, constraining governments’ ability to address inequality by increasing public provisioning of essential services.

An earlier IMF study also noted that the neoliberal reforms — promoting privatization, cutting government spending, and strictly limiting fiscal deficits and government debt — have also increased economic inequality.

On average, net private wealth in most rich countries rose from 200–350% of national income in 1970 to 400-700% recently as marginal tax rates for the rich and super-rich have fallen. The Oxfam report identifies tax evasion, corporate capture of public policy, erosion of workers’ rights and cost cutting as major contributors to widening inequalities.

The IMF’s recent Fiscal Monitor acknowledges that regressive tax reforms have caused tax incidence to be far less progressive, if not regressive, while failure to tax the rich more has increased inequality. Besides new tax evasion opportunities and much lower marginal income tax rates, capital gains are hardly taxed, encouraging top executives to pay themselves with stock options.


It is quite remarkable how increasing wealth concentration has been described and presented to the public. For example, the Allianz Global Wealth Report 2016 has described the trends as ‘inclusive inequality’, claiming a growing global middle class even as inequality has been rising.

Similarly, the Credit Suisse Report argues that wealth distribution is shifting as the world becomes wealthier, thus lowering barriers to wealth acquisition. Increasing wealth and income inequality are thus merely reflecting faster asset accumulation, including the pace at which new millionaires are being created.

Josef Stadler, UBS head of global ultra-high net worth and lead author of the UBS/PwC Billionaires Report 2017, decries “the perception that billionaires make money for themselves at the expense of the wider population” as incorrect, attributing billionaires’ fortunes to the strong performance of their companies and investments.

Besides their philanthropic contributions and patronage of the arts, culture and sports, 98% of billionaires’ wealth are said by him to contribute to society as the world’s super-rich employed 27.7 million people. Rather than making money from their employees’ efforts, billionaires apparently make private welfare payments to them out of the goodness of their hearts!



Cambodia is systematically squashing all forms of dissent

December 24, 2017

Cambodia is systematically squashing all forms of dissent

Unions, NGOs and environmental activists are all feeling the squeeze

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“THE logical approach now”, reckons Naly Pilorge of LICADHO, a Cambodian human-rights watchdog, “would be to continue attacking.” She is talking about a crackdown on all forms of political dissent launched in August by Hun Sen, who has been prime minister for 32 years and says he intends to remain in the job for another decade. Not content with securing a ban on the main opposition party, he is now persecuting unions, NGOs and anyone else who criticises the government.

The scale of the crackdown is unprecedented, says Ou Virak, a political analyst who once worked at the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, which the government recently threatened to close. Gatherings of more than five people are banned. All non-governmental groups and associations need to notify local officials before organising any kind of activity, according to a directive from the Ministry of the Interior disseminated in October.

Legislation on unions, passed almost 20 months ago, makes re-registration almost impossible for the handful of independent outfits that exist in Cambodia. Without proper registration, in turn, they cannot represent their members in disputes at the country’s Arbitration Council. Efforts to resolve matters at the council are required legally before a union can strike.

Sar Mora of the Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation, which has more than 4,000 members, describes baser forms of intimidation too. At meetings government goons take photographs and ask for copies of the agenda. Police watching the union’s rackety offices burst in if they see too many scooters parked outside. “Sometimes we call a meeting and workers are afraid to come to the meeting. We lost membership. And it is so hard to organise new members now,” he explains.

Environmental activists challenging the looting of natural resources are another target. The loss of tree cover accelerated more in Cambodia than in any other country between 2001 and 2014, the result of illegal logging, gold-mining and the seizure of land from villagers for rubber plantations. But groups that point out such destruction, and the harm it causes locals, risk official ire. Two members of Mother Nature, a grassroots environmental network, were arrested in September after filming ships they suspected of involvement in illegal sand-mining operations.

Even reporting on resistance to the crackdown is difficult. In the past four months the government has closed two American-funded radio-news services, dozens of broadcasting frequencies and one of the country’s best independent newspapers on trumped-up tax charges. Many correspondents have fled; others nurse cheap beers in Phnom Penh’s bars and fret over finding new employment. They are the lucky ones. Two former radio journalists, Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, face 15 years in prison for supplying information which “undermines national defence”. The voices of ordinary Cambodians are kept quiet too. Social-media posts calling for political change land their authors—frequently students—in prison.

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Many of the organisations and individuals targeted by the government have had links of some kind with America. The United States is therefore making more of a fuss about the repression than Japan and the European Union, other big donors to Cambodia. On December 6th America announced visa restrictions for anyone deemed to be “undermining Cambodian democracy”. This follows a move last month to cut funding for Cambodia’s election committee.

Mr Hun Sen has little reason to worry. The economy is thriving, tax revenues are soaring and friendship with China provides diplomatic and financial comfort. (Chinese businesses, the largest source of foreign investment, had pumped a cumulative $12bn into the country by the end of 2016.) His party will romp home in elections in July. He may even feel secure enough to loosen up a bit before the vote.

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In the long run, however, Alex Gonzalez-Davidson of Mother Nature is optimistic. Membership of his “ragtag army” increased by a third after the arrests of those filming the sand barges. Cambodians may not have any outlet for displeasure with the regime, but that does not mean they are blind to, or tolerant of, its faults.

This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline “Dark days”



Book Review: Exile in Colonial Asia

December 16, 2017

Book Review: Exile in Colonial Asia: Kings, Convicts, Commemoration

Ronit Ricci, ed. (University of Hawai’i Press, 2016. vii + 294pp.)

Reviewed by Craig Reynolds@www.

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Exile in Colonial Asia is a compact book, but it’s a large book in its treatment of forced migration, prisoner resettlement, and exile across the globe from East Asia to Africa. The ten essays cover people up and down the social hierarchy: rulers (kings, princes, sultans); pretenders to thrones; convicts; and a few pirates and smugglers.

The life of a slave might be better than that of a prince, and a prince one day might be a rebel the next, and soon after on a ship to another part of the world. Commemoration in the subtitle means memory. To restore lives lost to the historical record, the authors pick their way through grudging source material—letters, notes, trading company documents, and lists. It’s amazing what a detective-author can resurrect from the dry lists of people and objects buried in archival records.

In the period covered by the book the world was mapped not by countries but by empires: Portuguese, Dutch, British, French, Belgian, and Italian. Colonial authorities and trading companies like the Dutch East India Company (VOC), a quasi-state, removed people from their homelands and exiled them to foreign lands. The globe is criss-crossed with the movements of these people shown on maps drawn by Robert Cribb. Exile was not a peculiarly Western imperialist measure. Indigenous political systems—the Chinese and the Vietnamese, among others—also used exile and prison colonies to expand their territories. Not all the people sent into exile became alienated in their new surroundings. Some adapted by converting to a new religion, or by seizing opportunities in commerce or agriculture.

From ports in the Indonesian archipelago the VOC transported prisoners to the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa. From the French colonies in Indochina 600 prisoners were sent to Gabon on the west coast of Africa and the Congo. The French also sent prisoners from Indochina to French Guiana, New Caledonia, Madagascar, Martinique, and Guadeloupe. High-level political prisoners in the French colonies went to Algeria, Tahiti, and the Marquesas. The British sent Indian convicts to the Andaman Islands which became a penal colony after the Great Indian Revolt of 1857–58. Rebels against British rule in Ceylon were sent to Mauritius.

Prisoners built and fed European empires. Convicts laboured as brick and tile makers, blacksmiths, boatmen, cart drivers and grass cutters, or were engaged in experimental industry and agriculture. Convicts worked in tin mines in Burma, and in Mauritius in silk and cotton production and the cultivation of sugar and coffee.

This historical study on Asia is one of the few that sees fit to include Australia, in this case to illustrate a place that was both colony and penal settlement. In Asia proper we find ourselves in India, Lanka, Java, Singapore, the Malay world, Vietnam, and Burma. Siam is not among the case studies, because it was not colonised, but when the king of Siam visited Java in the early 1870s he saw what might become of him if the British and French decided to take away his crown and carve up his realm. He observed the sultan of Jogjakarta being marched around and guarded by troops. The Javanese sultan displayed the paraphernalia of royalty, but he was a prisoner in a gilded cage, dethroned and demoted within his own country. Native rulers could be packed off to other outposts of empire. Amangkurat III was exiled from Java to Ceylon. The last king of Kandy in Ceylon was sent to Madras. Maharaj Singh was banished from the Punjab, where he was considered a threat to colonial consolidation, and then sent to Singapore. Sultan Hamengkubuwana II of Yogyakarta was exiled to Penang after he opposed the British takeover of Java in 1811. Some exiles became submissive, some were moderate. Some became militant, some were already militant.

The book is not sentimental, but exile, banishment, and forced migration are melancholy topics. I came away empathetic not only with the individuals affected by dire circumstance but also with the authors’ struggles to salvage memories of those uprooted and sent away. Exiles pined for home, and if they were rulers they dreamed of regaining their thrones. Several authors discuss the emotional pain in the exiled life of their subjects. Anand Yang refers to his chapter as a meditation, and Ronit Ricci’s story of the return to Batavia of Amangkurat III’s remains after his death in Ceylon is told with sorrow.

The final essay by Penny Edwards is a fitting end, if not a conclusion, to the volume. Prince Myngoon, the son of a modernising Burmese king in the mid-nineteenth century, was an embodiment of the Burmese monarchy the British had just eradicated. Edwards calls him a trickster who outwitted the British as he darted from Rangoon to Pondicherry to Benares to Saigon. The prince was a subversive figure able to elude colonial administrators trying to keep track of him. His story is shaped by subterfuge that challenged colonial surveillance. Colonial power had its limits.

The book is not divided into sections, a bold decision by the editor assisted by Maria Myutel. Cross references cite other essays within the volume to make comparisons and contrasts, but not in a false or jarring way. The book began life as a workshop, that familiar factory of academic production, and the authors apparently arrived soon enough at a consensus about what to discuss. Clare Anderson’s introduction is a masterful account of exile as a global phenomenon that ties the essays together, and the book’s striking cover depicts wayang figures on a Dutch ship that conveys movement, one of the volume’s themes. No surprise that the International Convention of Asian Scholars this year awarded Exile in Colonial Asia an accolade for the best edited volume.

Readers of this book cannot fail to reflect on today’s accounts of refugees forced from their homelands by repression and civil war. History is present knowledge, and each author in his or her essay reaffirms human possibility in an inhumane world.


Why Denmark is a Special Place– It is not just the Mermaid of course

December 3, 2017

Why Denmark is a Special Place– It is not just the Mermaid of course

by Benedict Lopez*

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The Little Mermaid to Copenhagen– The mermaid statue was created in bronze by Edvard Eriksen, and was unveiled in August of 1913.

Eriksen was commissioned in January 1909 by Carl Jacobsen of Carlsberg Breweries to create the statue. Carl was fascinated by a ballet at the Copenhagen Royal Theatre based on the fairy tale about the mermaid, and asked the star of the ballet, Ellen Price de Plane, to model for the statue.  Price declined modeling in the nude for the sculpture, and Eriksen enlisted his wife Eline Eriksen (who modeled for several other of his works) to model for the mermaid statue.   A popular story has it that Price modeled for the face and Eline Eriksen for the body, but in actual fact Eline Eriksen was the model for the entire sculpture.  This is easily seen when comparing the statue’s face with photos of Eline Eriksen, and the faces of Eriksen’s other statues.

This mermaid statue is one of the top tourist attractions in Copenhagen, and has become an icon and a symbol of both Copenhagen and Denmark. While the story by Hans Christian Andersen was more than enough to make this mermaid statue known around the world, the Disney movies have only added to the fame and the appeal of this statue.

There are copies of the statue – with some differences – in a number of locations around the world, which in some cases are authorized by Eriksen’s heirs, and in other cases have been allowed to remain without specific authorization from the heirs.

The mermaid statue on display in Copenhagen is the actual original, but other copies and sizes were made as well – which is a good thing, as the original has been vandalized several times, and then lovingly restored using the copies.   Several sizes are available for purchase at the official website for this most famous of all mermaid statues.

While the statue is often seen as being smaller than expected, it is actually larger than it appears, about 25% larger than lifesize.  The spectacular location and the grand features of ocean, harbor and shoreline around the statue contribute to make it look small in comparison.  The original statue here is the only true copy of the statue in this size – according to sculptor Edvard Eriksen’s will, only smaller copies may be produced, with Copenhagen Harbor having the only full-size statue.

Benedict Lopez is drawn to the simplicity, integrity and passion for the environment on display in Denmark.

Although I have visited Denmark several times since 2010, I always look forward to my next visit.

I feel comfortable being in the home of Carlsberg, not for the beer alone (although I enjoy a pint or two occasionally) but also for the core values of this country of 5.5m people – values I cherish as a human being.

Like in Sweden, discrimination is prohibited on the grounds of race, colour, religion, gender, disability and sexual orientation in Denmark.

On each visit, I observed as many things as possible as to what makes Danes the happiest people in the world. I personally believe it is the sense of security given to the citizenry by the state.

Sharply in contrast to citizens in many other countries around the world, Danes need not worry about the basic necessities in life like healthcare, education and social security as Denmark is a welfare state. This is made possible because of high taxes, accountability in public expenditure, little wastage, checks and balances in the system and virtually non-existent corruption.

Having travelled the length and breadth of the land of Hans Christian Andersen, I have observed many facets of Danish life. The virtues of the Danes may be summarised as follows: integrity, simplicity and passion for the environment.


Government ministers, civil servants and all public sector officials are held accountable for their actions. And when inefficiency, negligence and breach of fiduciary responsibility is highlighted, the minister or official concerned resigns immediately or is reprimanded. Transparency ensures that public expenditure is effectively scrutinised with any leaks in the system immediately plugged.

There is a high level of integrity among ordinary people too, and they seldom hoodwink or defraud others. Seldom does one read about any form of dishonesty, abuse of power or financial transgression.

Simplicity is a virtue the Danes are noted for. About a third of Copenhagen residents cycle to work and the rest take the train or drive to work. Most of those who drive have ordinary cars. In my six years traveling all over Denmark, I never once saw posh makes like Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Ferrari.

In sharp contrast to their Malaysian counterparts, chairmen, CEOs and managing directors of companies in Denmark usually drive to work on their own – without a personal driver. There are no special parking spaces reserved for them at their place of work. All staff park their cars in the same place. Meeting rooms are simple with ordinary tables and chairs; no expensive executive chairs even for the top brass in the company.

Just like in Sweden, simple dressing is the order of the day for the office and meetings, and most men wear a jacket without a tie. Their dress code contrasts conspicuously with many in the upper echelon in Malaysia, who have a passion for branded products and wait for the opportunity to display their opulence.


The offices of top management staff in companies are simple, quite unlike what you find in Malaysia. No posh office furniture. I have noticed this in many companies in Denmark over the years and this is something we Malaysians can emulate. In Denmark, people look down on you if you flaunt your wealth conspicuously.

I always take the flight to Billund, the home of Lego, via one of the European cities, and the one-hour drive to Julesminde is just awesome. I admire the beauty of the Danish countryside while passing through country towns along the way.

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Each time after arriving in Juelsminde, a small town of less than 5,000 people, I immediately check into the guesthouse. Without wasting any time, I go for a jog on the beach in front of the guesthouse for an hour. The clean fresh air, unpolluted environment and early morning sunrise keeps me rejuvenated as I jog in the mornings and evenings.

I subsequently laze about outdoors reading a book with, of course, a glass of good wine beside me in the evenings, before I go for a satisfying Danish dinner with colleagues.

Danes are passionate about their environment and are moving at an accelerated speed towards zero dependence on fossil fuels by 2050. Much of Denmark’s renewable energy requirements will be met through wind, and wind farms are conspicuous on land and sea all over the country.

All through my travels in Denmark and my dealings with the Danes, I have observed one of their traits, and that is if you are honest and sincere with them, they respect you. I too was always candid in my dealings with them, constantly being the “unsubtle diplomat”.




After all, honesty is the mark of self-respect in any human being, and only those without this trait try and boost their self-esteem in other, less edifying, ways.

Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. During the course of his work, he covered all five Nordic countries. An eternal optimist, he believes Malaysia can provide its citizens with the same benefits and privileges found in the Nordic countries – not a far-fetched dream but one that he hopes will be realised in his lifetime.