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Copenhagen Meets Climate Challenges by Improving its Urban Environment

Submitted by on 06 Oct 2011 – 11:51

Copenhagen WaterfrontBy Hjalte Åberg, CEO of the City of Copenhagen’s Technical and Environmental Administration

Copenhagen is a green city, thanks to many years of sound planning and urban renewal. In future, it will become even greener due to ambitious plans for the environment established by the City of Copenhagen. In our City, climate adaptation measures and the development of attractive urban spaces for the citizens go hand in hand. In fact, the work on climate change adaptation is providing Copenhagen with a unique opportunity to structure its physical environment in such a way that it continues to be one of the world’s most liveable cities.

Copenhagen to become world’s first carbon neutral city

As a far-sighted approach to handling future climate changes, we have adopted two separate action plans as our starting point for incorporating the necessary climate adaptation into our thinking in all areas of the City’s development.

Our Climate Plan, which was adopted unanimously by the City Council in 2009, contains 50 specific initiatives to reduce Copenhagen’s carbon emissions by 20 % in the period 2005-2015. As part of this plan and our even more far-reaching Climate Adaptation Plan, we aim at becoming the world’s first carbon neutral city by 2025.

This vision is to be carried out by means of a range of initiatives, for instance by constructing more windmills, further limiting car and bus emissions and encouraging more Copenhageners to save energy. Our energy supply has been reorganised, so 30 % of it is now based on carbon neutral energy sources, a percentage which is due to increase in the coming years. We have thus made a long-term, broad and focused commitment to safeguard Copenhagen against climate change.

44 of the 50 projects of the Climate Plan have already been initiated, for instance improvement of conditions for electric vehicles, which run on windmill energy, and landscaping of green roofs and the first of 15 future “pocket parks” for recreative purposes and drainage of rain water.

The Eco-metropolis

An offshoot of our Climate Plan, the Eco-metropolis 2015 has four elements: We intend to make Copenhagen the best city for bicycles in the world, and we would like it to be the centre of the world’s climate adaptation policy-making. In addition, Copenhagen must be further developed as a green and blue capital and must also continuously be a clean and healthy city for our citizens to live in.

In 2015, Copenhagen will be rightly known as the capital in the world with the best urban environment. It will have become the climate capital of the world, thus demonstrating that environmental concerns add an extra dynamic to urban development.

Copenhageners and visiting guests will be able to see and appreciate the improvements, while at the same time the City will be taking active responsibility for the global environmental development.

Greening the City for the greater good of its citizens

By choosing solutions which improve Copenhagen’s physical environment and create attractive urban spaces, climate adaptation work is used to raise the quality of life for the citizens.

This aspect applies particularly to the bicycle culture of Copenhagen. We now have a widespread net of cycle tracks, connecting the City from north to south and providing the citizens with attractive green routes through their capital. This initiative is one of many to help reduce our carbon emissions by making more people leave their cars at home and cycle to their place of work or education.

Moreover, the popular harbour swimming pools, where Copenhageners swim and sunbathe during the summer months, is the result of persistent efforts to deal with rain water, so that it does not contaminate the harbour waters along with the waste water. In this way, climate adaptation and the development of an attractive city become two sides of the same coin.

Lighthouse projects

In the Climate Plan, a number of so-called “lighthouse projects” are outlined. These projects are aimed at developing both equipment and the Copenhageners’ knowledge of the environment, to mention just two aspects. For instance, it is a goal of the City of Copenhagen to provide electricity generated by wind turbines for the new electric cars and to further develop the necessary technology. Also, a new information centre with the purpose of educating our children and young people in terms of climate knowledge will be established. The lighthouse projects are, as the word indicates, specific focus areas designed to light up the way for the environment.

Climate adaptation calls for new technology

The comprehensive initiative of adapting Copenhagen to the climate has created a demand for new technology. By including a green growth perspective in our thinking, it is our ambition that investments can be made in partnership with external investors. This can contribute to investments being not just an expense for the City but also a way of creating growth and employment as well as attracting new knowledge and new business to the City.