Copenhagen aims to be world’s first carbon neutral capital by 2025

Date: 26/08/2019

The transition to a green economy has long been a priority for city bosses in Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen. The efficient transit systems, from buses and trains to one of the world’s most extensive cycle lane networks, are impossible to ignore. Five years ago the city was praised as a “green economy leader” in a London School of Economics (LSE) report. But city leaders now want to push things much further.

The new climate plan CPH 2025 reveals the ambition for Copenhagen to become carbon neutral capital city in just six years. Frank Jensen, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, said in the introduction that the plan is ambitious but achievable: “We are already well underway. In 2011, Copenhagen had reduced CO2 emissions by 21% compared to 2005,” he said.

Stimulating a green economy

The plan states that the projects should secure and improve the quality of life in Copenhagen and create opportunities for innovation, jobs and green growth.

To achieve this goal, the city plan includes substantial infrastructure projects. A transition of its energy supply to sustainable sources, retrofitting buildings with green technology, plus making improvements to waste management, public infrastructure and mobility are all on the agenda.

It’s a plan that directly addresses one of the main challenges highlighted in the LSE report. It said that although Copenhagen remains one of the most productive cities in Europe, income and investment levels in other OECD countries and cities have quickly been closing the gap. The report recommended drawing on the city’s strengths as an innovation-led economy to remain a green leader.

That appears to be the plan. The Lord Mayor commented that while several solutions will be based on existing technology, other areas will require innovation: “A cornerstone in the climate plan is, therefore, initiatives for collaboration with the business community, the Government, organisations and research institutions.”

A massive investment for Copenhagen taxpayers

But it’s also a plan that will come at a great cost to the Copenhagen taxpayer. The city administration will stump up approximately 2.7 billion Danish kroner ($400 million) between now and 2025 to fully implement the projects.

Despite the high cost, city management claim the investment will lead to an overall positive economic picture, and give direct economic benefits for the city’s residents. The plan cites an expected increase in the cost of conventional energy sources in the years to come and an improvement in health and quality of life for Copenhageners as principal reasons.

More than half the expected cost will go on the retrofitting of city buildings to improve energy efficiency. Large chunks are also earmarked for the replacement of street lighting and further investment in cycling infrastructure.

What global cities can learn from Copenhagen

The Danish capital is certainly making a statement with its ambitious aim to become carbon neutral 20-30 years earlier than many other world capitals. Of course, the city is already so far ahead and that means there’s plenty for other ambitious cities to learn from.

The city is in process of expanding Nordhavn from an industrial port to a mixed-use residential and commercial neighborhood. Rather than just row after row of luxury apartments, the district is being designed as a self-contained community. “We created a new vision for transportation: the ‘five-minute city,’ we called it, which means that the city is planned in a way that it only takes you five minutes to walk from your apartment to a kindergarten, to shops, to public amenities,” Søren Hansen from design and engineering firm Ramboll told Fast Company.

But there’s more to it than creating an attractive place to live that deemphasises the need for a car. The new district heating and smart-grid integration provides other cities with a blueprint for how electricity, heat, energy-efficient buildings and transport can be integrated into one intelligent energy system.

Whether Copenhagen succeeds with the ambitious plan or not, there’s going to be plenty more that other cities can learn from the various projects in the coming years.

By David Nikel, Forbes