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Delegation members at House of Green, an interactive showroom and visitors center operated by State of Green, in Copenhagen

Climate Jobs Institute leads educational delegation to Denmark

Delegation members in front of a 150-meter turbine at the Østerild Test Centre, a state-owned facility that allows companies to test the latest offshore wind technologies
Delegation members in front of a 150-meter turbine at the Østerild Test Centre, a state-owned facility that allows companies to test the latest offshore wind technologies

Last month, Cornell ILR’s Climate Jobs Institute led an educational delegation of 30 New York State legislative and labor leaders to Denmark to learn from the nation’s world-leading efforts to build a clean energy economy.  The delegation took place from July 15th through 21st, and it included 11 elected leaders from the New York State legislature, including Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Assembly Labor Committee Chair Latoya Joyner, Senate Labor Committee Chair Jessica Ramos, and Senate Energy Chair Kevin Parker.  Fourteen union leaders from New York and the United Kingdom also joined, representing industries like construction, utilities, healthcare, and building services.

In recent years, New York has moved quickly to establish the state as a climate leader.  The 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act set ambitious emissions-reduction goals for New York, and leaders expect the recently-passed Cap-and-Invest program and Build Public Renewables Act to spur further clean energy development.  Wind and solar development have taken off in recent years, largely driven by Danish companies and investments.

“This educational trip provides an invaluable opportunity to learn from Denmark’s successes and challenges in navigating this transition,” CJI Executive Director Lara Skinner told Politico during the trip.  Skinner led the educational delegation, along with her CJI colleagues Zach Cunningham and Melissa Shetler.

During the first two days of the trip, delegates toured several facilities key to Denmark’s clean energy economy.  This included visits to the Port of Aalborg and the Port of Esbjerg.  Both ports are major hubs in the offshore wind industry, playing complementary roles in wind turbine production, storage, transport, and installation.  Delegates also heard about Aalborg’s investments in carbon capture and storage, and toured a future green hydrogen production facility in Esbjerg that is currently under construction.

Delegates also toured a major wind turbine testing facility in Østerild.  This government-owned facility allows manufacturers to test fully-constructed turbines in wind conditions that largely mirror those off the coast.  Large-scale testing facilities are important in maximizing turbine performance and attracting investments up and down the supply chain. The turbines currently being tested at Østerild are nearly 500 feet tall and generate between 10 and 15 megawatts of electricity each.

During the trip’s final two days, delegates dialogued with several figures key to driving Danish clean energy industries.  Participants met with representatives from offshore wind developers RWE and Ørsted, clean energy investors from Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, government officials from the Danish Energy Agency, companies investing in long-duration energy storage and small-scale nuclear reactors, and a labor leader from one of Denmark’s largest unions, 3F.  

Several of the organizational leaders delegates met with are active in developing projects in New York State.  “Denmark is a world leader in clean energy,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told Politico. “New York can learn from their efforts as we move to meeting the goals of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.”

Organizing this educational delegation is an extension of CJI’s longstanding commitment to working with leaders in New York and shaping the state’s transition to a strong, equitable and inclusive clean energy economy.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, CJI - then housed within ILR’s Worker Institute as the Labor Leading on Climate Initiative - brought together unions from the building trades, energy and transport sectors to explore how climate protection policy could drive high-quality employment and economic development throughout New York State. 

The initiative resulted in the Worker Institute’s 2017 report, “Reversing Inequality, Combatting Climate Change: A Climate Jobs Program for New York State.”  It also helped spark the formation of Climate Jobs NY, a union-led organization focused on creating good jobs in the clean energy economy. In 2018, Cornell organized a delegation of NYS labor leaders to Denmark to learn about the offshore wind industry. Following that trip, unions engaged in Climate Jobs NY successfully advocated for NYS to build 9 gigawatts of offshore wind with a Project Labor Agreement requirement. In 2022, CJI built off the 2017 report by publishing “Climate for Change: A Complete Climate Jobs Roadmap for New York City.”

CJI organized the educational delegation in collaboration with the Climate Jobs National Resource Center and State of Green, a non-profit partnership between the Danish government and industry groups.  In future years, CJI plans to organize similar bi-partisan trips for labor leaders and policymakers to learn from leaders in clean energy development, decarbonization, and high-quality job creation across the globe.