Copenhagen Sets a Global Standard with 2025 Carbon Neutrality Goal
A vision of a “five-minute city”, restrictions on polluting cars, an awesomely effective transit system, and a shift to renewable energy are centrepieces of the effort to make bicycle-friendly Copenhagen a carbon-neutral city, a couple of decades ahead of most other leading municipalities and just a dozen years after it first set its 2025 target.
The city has already cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 42%, and is trending far ahead of other communities with deadlines as late as 2050.
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“We insist on green solutions because it pays off,” said Lord Mayor Frank Jensen. “I think that’s a very important message to send to mayors around the world. Copenhagen’s green transformation goes hand in hand with job creation, a growing economy, and a much better quality of life.”
Copenhagen has long been known for its bike-friendly culture and safe bicycle infrastructure. Fast Company describes a series of programs the city has put in place since 2013, when it set out to become the world’s first carbon-neutral municipality. Automated metro lines run at two-minute intervals at rush hour to discourage cars in the city core. And communities are now planned so that residents can expect a five-minute walk from home to transit and amenities.
“It means that people don’t bother to take their car,” said engineer and designer Søren Hansen, who worked on the transformation of the industrial neighbourhood of Nordhavn. “It’s more convenient to bike, walk, or take public transit than go to a central parking garage—buildings don’t have garages of their own—and also drive around looking for parking at the destination.”
Jensen is also looking for cleaner air, and said he’s keen to work with a new national governing coalition that may be more amenable to banning diesel cars in the downtown core.
“The former government was not ambitious regarding the green agenda, but I really look forward to collaborating with the new social democratic government,” he said. “I think we can push forward the green agenda together, and the new government has set very ambitious goals.”
Fast Company says the new government “is also now considering making public transit free in the country’s largest cities—including trains that bring commuters into Copenhagen, since those commuters are more likely to drive than people who live in the city centre.”
The city is also moving swiftly to decarbonize electricity and space heat. “To date, it has installed 62 massive wind turbines with a capacity of 158 megawatts; by 2025, it plans to have an installed capacity of 460 megawatts,” notes reporter Adele Peters. “Not far from downtown, a huge new power plant turns truckloads of trash into heat and electricity, importing some garbage from as far away as the UK (the plant also doubles as a ski slope to bring in extra revenue). Another plant now runs on wood pellets instead of coal to produce heat—though cutting down trees for heat, while technically carbon-neutral, isn’t a long-term solution. The city plans to also use geothermal energy, though it’s only happening at a pilot scale now. Another key part of the plan is making buildings more efficient so they don’t waste energy.”
And Copenhagen is already looking beyond a target focused on transportation, electricity, heating, and cooling, with new strategies like serving less meat at municipal hospitals, kindergartens, and public spaces.
“I want Copenhagen to be a green leader—also in the future,” Jensen told Peters. “So, we will certainly have very ambitious targets after 2025. Therefore, I am willing to look at all smart solutions, which can make our city greener. Consumption and other emissions could certainly be a part of them.”