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Expert advice to do the most good

The Copenhagen Consensus Center is a think tank that researches the smartest solutions for the world's biggest problems, advising policy-makers and philanthropists how to spend their money most effectively.

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Our story

The Copenhagen Consensus was conceived to address a fundamental, but overlooked topic in international development: In a world with limited budgets and attention spans, we need to find effective ways to do the most good for the most people.

Bjorn Lomborg’s work with the Copenhagen Consensus is a vital, solution-oriented contribution to the economics of global warming – and the many other problems facing a growing planet.”

- Bryan Walsh, Time Magazine 

The following timeline gives a historical overview of our work. 

2002 – Establishment of Environmental Assessment Institute. Bjorn Lomborg, now-President and Director of Copenhagen Consensus Center was the Institute’s first Director. The Institute is an independent body of the Danish government which provides economic and environmental cost-benefit analyses.

2004 – March: In a London press conference, Bjorn Lomborg announces the Copenhagen Consensus conference. “Copenhagen Consensus will provide a framework to allow us to make better prioritizations," said Lomborg. In April, Lomborg, economist Jagdish Bhagwati, Dominic Ziegler of the Economist, and Sloane Lederer of Cambridge University Press launched the project in the U.S. The Copenhagen Consensus broadens the scope of the Environmental Assessment Institute, focusing on solutions to ten of the world’s most pressing issues.

May: The first Copenhagen Consensus conference was held from May 24 – 28.  An Expert Panel, composed of 4 Nobel Laureates, evaluated the proposals and ranked them. The policies most deserving of aid dollars were, of course, listed at the top. The event was sponsored by the Economist, the Tuborg Foundation, The Carlsberg Bequest to the Memory of Brewer I.C. Jacobsen, and the Danish Ministry of the Environment. The collected research from 30 top economists working in 10 policy areas was published by Cambridge University Press under the title, Global Crises, Global Solutions.

"I hope that Copenhagen Consensus projects will draw the attention of governments around the world to the issues and the things that we think are clearly things that would improve the wellbeing of societies in countries. If we succeed at all in doing that, I would say we have done a good job.”

- Douglass  North, Nobel Laureate in Economics

2006 – The Copenhagen Consensus Center is formed, with the funding of the Danish state. The Center builds on the mandate of the EAI, expanding the research it commissions to include cost-benefit analysis and prioritizing solutions for the world’s most pressing issues.  

2006 – The Copenhagen Consensus project expands. The Center hosts two conferences: Copenhagen Consensus UN Perspective and Copenhagen Consensus Georgetown.

June: The Copenhagen Consensus Georgetown meeting drew on the 2004 conference, asking attendees to prioritize research from the previous meeting. Representatives came from China, India, Pakistan, Tanzania, Thailand, the United States, Vietnam and Zambia.

October: The Copenhagen Consensus UN Perspective meeting was held in New York. UN Ambassadors from 30 countries were asked to prioritize major global issues such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and climate change. The goal of the conference was to introduce an element of transparency and cost-benefit efficiency to member countries and the UN system.

2007 – Copenhagen Consensus hosts “Bill Gates for a Day.” The project asked the question, “If you were the richest man of the world, how would you solve the world's problem?” We commissioned 25 economists to address 25 different issues. Eight presented at the conference. Tuborgfondet sponsored the project.

2007 – Copenhagen Consensus hosted its first region-specific project with the Copenhagen Consensus for Latin America. Using the Copenhagen Consensus framework, the project brought together leading economists who focused on the most important issues for Latin America.

“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.”

- Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Prime Minister of Denmark, Opening of Copenhagen Consensus Conference May, 25, 2008

2008 – The second meeting of the flagship Copenhagen Consensus conference held May 25 – 30. The Expert Panel again consisted of Nobel Laureates tasked with prioritizing a hypothetical $75 billion. The collected research from 55 top economists, as well as the Experts’ rankings, were compiled in the book, Global Crises, Global Solutions. Following the project, the Center hosted a prioritization clinic with Danish primary school students in the spring of 2009.

2009 – Copenhagen Consensus’s second regionally-themed project, the Denmark Consensus is held. In cooperation with the newspaper Politiken, Denmark Consensus asked the Danish population to address five crucial issues facing the future of their country.

2009 – Copenhagen Consensus commissioned the Best Practice Papers, based on the top solutions the second Copenhagen Consensus. The aim was to provide more in-depth, empirical, regional/national experience- based analysis of the issues.

September  – Copenhagen Consensus tackles the issue of climate change with its project, Fix the Climate. An Expert Panel of five world-class economists sought to answer which solutions to climate change would be best for the planet. Copenhagen Consensus Center commissioned research papers from specialist climate economists, outlining the cost and benefits of each way to respond to global warming.  The organization also interviewed over 50 people in areas affected by climate change to get their personal perspectives on the issue. A book of the collected solutions was published under the name Smart Solutions to Climate Change: Comparing Costs and Benefit.

December – How can one person’s charitable donations make use of Copenhagen Consensus findings? In December 2009, we released a guide to help funnel donations to the most effective sources. The Guide to Giving provides information on how to make your donation count.

2010 – The Copenhagen Consensus Center teamed with Rush Foundation for Rethink HIV project, addressing the problem of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. It was the first-ever comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of AIDS investments in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Expert Panel considered interventions ranging from social policies to increased funding for researching a cure. As with other Copenhagen Consensus projects, the findings were published in the Rethink HIV book.

2012 – The third Copenhagen Consensus held in Denmark in May. As with previous iterations, the Expert Panel rigorously examines ten of the most important issues facing global development. A list of priorities with all the solutions identified by the scholars was ranked by the Expert Panel according to the potential of each solution for solving the world’s greatest challenges most cost effectively. A summary of these findings was published as a book under the title How to Spend $75 Billion to Make the World a Better Place. A second edition was released in 2014.

2013 - The Copenhagen Consensus Center launches a new website, Rank Smart Solutions. Users are able to make use of the Center's extensive research to create their own prioritized lists. 

2013 - Copenhagen Consensus Center publishes a new volume, How Much Have Global Problems Cost the World? A Scorecard 1900 - 2050. The research offers a new way to compare ten of the biggest global problems. 

2014 - The Copenhagen Consensus Center launches the Post-2015 Consensus project which brings together 60 teams of the world’s top economists with NGOs, international agencies and businesses to identify the best “bang-for-the-buck” targets for the UN's post-2015 development agenda. 

2015 - The Copenhagen Consensus Center launches the Bangladesh Priorities project to answer the question: what should the top priorities for policy makers, international donors, NGOs and businesses be in order to do the most good in Bangladesh for each taka spent.

2016 - The Copenhagen Consensus Center launches the Haïti Priorise project to identify smart priorities for the country, sparking a nationwide conversation about what the most effective and efficient solutions are for Haiti.

2017 - Copenhagen Consensus Center launches the India Consensus, a partnership between the Copenhagen Consensus Center and the Tata Trusts. The aim is to identify the smartest solutions to some of India's most pressing development challenges.

Since its inception in 2006 until 2012, the Copenhagen Consensus Center had funding from the Danish state. Where recent projects have received any additional funding, you can find that information on our website under the descriptions of those projects.