Copenhagen's ambition is to become the world's first carbon neutral capital - by 2025
Copenhagen's Net Zero Target
Copenhagen, Denmark has already cut CO2 emissions by at least half (when compared to 1995 levels), on its way to carbon neutrality (net zero greenhouse gas emissions - net zero GHGs) by 2025. The City of Copenhagen has a few major areas of focus in its mission to net zero - detailed in the city's Climate Plan.
Copenhagen's 2025 Climate Plan includes achieving 100% renewable energy (100RE) citywide, mandating enhanced energy efficiency measures throughout multiple sectors of the city, ensuring the city's environment is as clean as possible, and green transit/ mobility goals - including investing in sustainable transit.
One goal of Copenhagen's Climate Plan is to have 75% of all trips in the city done by foot, by bike, or by public transport. The Plan also entails strategic implementation by having the city government lead first in all sustainability goals. By having the city administration lead in adopting low and zero-carbon transit (electricity, biofuels, hydrogen), although not a large share of Copenhagen's carbon footprint is addressed (>5%), a huge amount of inspiration to meet sustainability goals is shared with the city.
Copenhagen requires all new buildings in the city to conform to strict green building standards, including launching zero-emission construction sites, in striving for reducing energy consumption for all building operations.
The Danish Climate Act has set a target of reducing GHGs by 70% in Denmark as a whole by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels). Denmark's net zero goal is set at 2050, so Copenhagen will remain ahead of the rest of the country as it continues to reduce GHGs and meets its own net zero by 2025 target. The country of Denmark aims to achieve 100% renewable heat and power by 2030 and 100% renewable energy overall by 2050, and these again are targets that the city of Copenhagen aims to achieve much faster on the city's path to net zero.
A future goal for Copenhagen, after becoming carbon-neutral, is to become completely fossil fuel-free by 2050. Renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable clean transit, and green buildings are means to achieve the fossil-free goal, as is a future ban on internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. The country of Denmark has proposed to ban the sale of new diesel and gas vehicles from 2030 on, in an effort to promote electric vehicles.
Additionally, cycling already accounts for about half of the travel to work or school within Copenhagen and the city is known as one of the world's most bike-friendly cities. The City of Copenhagen is making efforts to ensure that most travel in the city is done by foot, bike, or sustainable mass transit (read more about the City's efforts below - in the Sustainable Transit in Copenhagen section).
Renewable Energy in Copenhagen
Today, Denmark has a substantial quantity of renewable energy sources (onshore wind and offshore wind farms, solar PV and solar thermal, biomass, other renewables). Renewable energy (mostly biomass in this case) provides energy for around 100 district heating networks supplying heat to various municipalities in Denmark. A major source of Copenhagen's district heating is sourced from cogeneration plants (combined heat and power - CHP - plants), mostly biomass-fueled or W2E-based, with cleaner renewable sources for the city's CHP plants now coming online. The district heating network in Copenhagen is one of the world's largest district heating systems.
At present, Copenhagen is powered mostly by renewable energy - mainly wind energy, as well as solar (solar PV, solar thermal), and biomass (including waste-to-energy - W2E - systems, biogas production, etc...); in addition to other renewables and some fossil fuel-sourced energy.
Energy from offshore wind farms (such as the Anholt wind farm), as well as other renewable energy sources, supplies most of Copenhagen's electricity needs, on particularly windy days. Although the majority of renewable energy in the country of Denmark is sourced from wind, the city of Copenhagen also features extensive solar and biomass (W2E, biogas production) energy projects.
Copenhagen International School features the largest solar facade developed for a building in the world, as of 2017. One particularly innovative citywide measure involves the creation of biogas from household sewage throughout Copenhagen.
Copenhagen’s municipal sewage treatment plants separate biomass fluids with the potential to create biogas, from household wastewater. Next, the plants treat this potential renewable energy source; separating potential biogas material sources, and filtering the sewage to remove ammonia, sulfides, and other toxic elements.
Then, the biomass sources leftover are converted entirely to a usable gas form (methane) through gasification or anaerobic digestion and are mixed with other biogas or natural gas to produce gas for the city. A substantial amount of building heating in Copenhagen uses this renewable energy gas source; in addition to other uses, like heat for cooking.
Copenhagen also has the largest cogeneration system in a city - a heating network where waste heat from power plants is utilized to keep buildings warm with district heating. In addition, water from the city harbor is utilized to cool various buildings in the city when needed; such as office buildings, data centers, hotels, and department stores.
Here about Copenhagen's waste-to-energy programs, recycling, and waste management programs:
Circular Copenhagen – Resource and Waste Plan 2024 (RAP24) adresses municipal waste from households and light industry waste. The target of the plan is to recycle 70% of the municipal waste by 2024. This will amount to a reduction of 59,000 tons of CO2 per year. Recycling must triple in municipal reuse facilities in order to achieve this goal.
The City of Copenhagen aims to be the world’s first carbon neutral capital by 2025 and the initiatives in RAP24 support this vision. Another motivating factor is to see Copenhagen become a leader in circular economics.
What are the innovative aspects and the climate mitigation and adaptation goals?
The plan contains a number of concrete initiatives, which are iterated along six themes:
1. Initiating waste sorting information campaigns, whichaims to improve collection of household waste for recycling by 14% (approx 8,025 tons CO2 reduction). Specifically, Copenhageners will be source separating their household waste into multiple fractions. These will be the following:
- Bio Waste
- Glass, bottles and jars
- Residual waste
- Hazardous waste
- Garden waste
- Bulky waste/wood
2. Improving waste collection methods and implementing source separation, which aims to further improve collection of household waste by 3% (approx. 2,550 tons CO2 reduction).
3. Stimulating reuse and exchange, which aims to see the city reuse 5,880 tons of waste (approx 240 tons CO2 reduction).
4. Promoting a circular economy, which aims to further improve collection of household waste for recycling by 6% (approx. 3,410 tons CO2 reduction).
5. Improving commercial waste recycling, whichaims to improve collection of commercial waste for recycling by 15%.
6. Integrating new technological solutions for waste treatment, which aims to improve sorting of household waste for recycling by 6% (approx 25,150 tons CO2 reduction).
In 1973, Denmark became the first country in the world to implement an environmental law, and since then, the environment has become one of the main priorities of city planning in the country. Denmark's Energy Policy Agreement was signed into law in 2012, and in the newest version of the Agreement, Denmark has committed to 100% renewable energy for all electricity in the country by 2030, and to become completely fossil-fuel free (including all transportation and industry) by 2050.
Sustainable Transit in Copenhagen
Copenhagen already has a substantial green transit infrastructure in place. The city’s rail, airport, and suburbs are connected to the city center via the metro bus system. The bus fleet in Copenhagen is being converted to run using biofuel, in addition to electric and electric-hybrid buses.
The city of Copenhagen hopes that by 2025, most of the buses used in the city for public transit run on electricity, biodiesel, bioethanol, biogas, are biofuel-electric or natural gas-electric hybrids, or even hydrogen fuel cell buses. Denmark is getting 200 hydrogen buses as part of the EU's big push for hydrogen buses, the H2BusEurope program.
Copenhagen also features the Copenhagen metro (a light rail rapid transit system) and the Copenhagen S-train (a hybrid urban-suburban commuter rail system). The Copenhagen metro features small, sustainable, fully autonomous trains that transport over a million passengers/ week. With over 80 stations throughout the Greater Copenhagen Metro area, the S-train has over 100 million passengers/ year. The Greater Copenhagen Light Rail is an electric tram system that's still under development, with a projected annual ridership of over 13 million passengers when completed.
Copenhagen harbor has ferries that, in addition to several destinations both local and abroad, bring travelers to and from cities in Scandinavia such as Oslo, Norway. A few of Copenhagen's ferries are zero-emissions vessels, in keeping with the sustainable transit theme of the city.
City officials in Copenhagen are trying to expand public and mass transport systems in Copenhagen, and at the same time, promote the use of bicycles as a means of traveling from one place to another. Bikes outnumber cars in Copenhagen, and currently about ½ of all trips within the city to work or universities are done on bicycles. Cycling is already as popular as car use in Copenhagen (as seen in this article in The Guardian), but Copenhagen sees cycling as becoming the dominant form of transit within the city.
The city council of Copenhagen hopes that the majority of travel in the city will be done by foot, public transit, or bicycles by 2025. The city provides safe bike lanes that are separated from road traffic. Copenhagen has installed green wave traffic lights (traffic lights that are synchronized to maximize the efficiency of bicyclists) and constructed new bike lanes, as well as improved current ones.
Other traffic calming measures throughout the city include slow-speed zones (with very low speed limits in much of the city), while the placement of speed bumps and traffic signs on the city's roads promotes safety. Copenhagen has mandated a ban on ICE vehicles in certain parts of the city center, creating pedestrian-only zones.
Copenhagen has several public-private partnerships that have helped with its sustainable employment and eco-innovation. The city works with universities, organizations, and companies to develop and improve green growth.
During the past decade, the city invested in making the Copenhagen harbor area as clean as possible. Cleaning the harbor has allowed Copenhagen to create jobs, generate revenue, and improve local business life. Today, people can swim in the harbor, which has crystal clear clean water.
Aside from the swimming spots in the harbor area, Copenhagen has various beaches, which have also been kept clean and productive for the Greater Copenhagen community. Near the city, beaches include the long white sands of Amager Beach; as well as the popular beaches of Hellerup Strand and Bellevue Strand. A clean harbor, clean beaches, and a thriving community around Copenhagen Harbor are examples of some of the benefits that the city has created through its sustainable initiatives.
Part of the success that Copenhagen is experiencing in terms of its green campaigns is due to the fact that city officials engage their residents and local businesses. The city of Copenhagen and private businesses in Copenhagen have teamed up to offer public green programs such as tax incentives, rebates, and discounts when buying hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles; and financial incentives to recycle plastic bottles.
Copenhagen was voted as Europe’s Green Capital in 2014 by the European Environment Commission. The city is known as a world leader when it comes to clean technology, sustainable buildings, and clean businesses. Copenhagen is also dominated by green spaces, open spaces, and parks, such as Tivoli Gardens.
"Copenhagen [aims to be the] the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025....The Danish capital is moving rapidly toward a zero-carbon future; as it erects wind farms, transforms its citywide heating systems, promotes energy efficiency, and lures more people out of their cars and onto public transportation and bikes." - read more at YaleEnvironment360:
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Please also see: Fossil-fuel free Vaxjo, Sweden
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