Copenhagen’s Push to be Carbon Neutral by 2025

by Rebecca Spevack on March 24, 2014

With climate change high on many nations’ agendas, policy-makers from numerous countries are putting measures in place to reduce their carbon footprint.  Some of these measures include mandatory recycling, or tax rebates for people who drive hybrid cars.  The city of Copenhagen, however, is taking enormous strides to slow the effects of global warming by striving to become a carbon neutral city by 2025.  Carbon neutrality refers to two elements: physical building footprints and emissions.  To have net zero consumption requires consuming energy to produce an equal amount.  The Lord Mayer of Copenhagen, Frank Jensen, first set this ambitious goal in 2008.  He explains that working to become a carbon neutral city does not only benefit the climate, but also the economy and quality of life (Grundvig, 2013).

Changes in sustainability of cities have the largest impact on slowing climate change, because cities are responsible for more than 70% of global carbon dioxide emissions and two-thirds of worldwide energy consumption.  Copenhagen is already a relatively sustainable city: there are already many wind turbines and advanced public transport in place, and many people bike instead of drive.  In addition, Copenhagen has already reduced emissions by 21% from 2005 to 2011 (Gerdes, 2011).  Three areas of city life will be focused on to reach the goal of carbon neutrality: new green mobility initiatives, more energy-efficient buildings, and more renewable energy production (Grundvig, 2013).

In terms of new green mobility initiatives, city officials are working to further reduce the use of cars: by 2025 the officials want 75% of trips to be made by foot, bike, or public transit (Gerdes, 2011).  The city has worked to become more bike-friendly by adding angled footrests so cyclists can rest without dismounting at intersections, and has increased the reach and lighting of cycle tracks—which are paths specifically for cyclists separate from cars and pedestrians.  In addition, in April of 2012, the first “bike superhighway” was created, which is an 11 mile bike path linking a suburb to the heart of the city; city officials have planned to build more “bike superhighways” (Gerdes, 2011).

Copenhagen is also working to create more energy-efficient buildings.  The city is already doing a great job with this: power plants’ waste heat is used to heat buildings, and water from the city harbor is used to cool buildings.  In fact, half of Copenhagen’s indoor heating comes from combusting waste (Gerdes, 2011).  An example of energy-efficient buildings is the two major combined heat and power stations in Copenhagen: Amager and Avedore.  Though they largely burn coal, but because waste heat is sent to the district heating system, they operate at 90% efficiency (Gerdes, 2011).  New buildings in Copenhagen must be constructed to Denmark’s Low Energy Class Ratings, but old buildings will present a challenge in becoming carbon neutral (Gerdes, 2011).  One reason for this is because most people in Copenhagen rent from landlords, and if a landlord invests money to make the building more energy-efficient, they do not see those savings—instead, the tenants do with reduced energy bills (Grundvig, 2013).  In this way, officials are looking into the possibility of cost sharing.

A third area that city officials are working to change is increasing renewable energy production.  The plan to accomplish this is to use a diverse array of clean energy sources, namely, biomass, wind, geothermal, and solar energy (Gerdes, 2011).  Policy-makers realize and acknowledge that more time will be needed to convert drivers of private cars from fossil fuels to more renewable energy (Gerdes, 2011).  An example of people using renewable energy is the Royal Danish Playhouse, which uses seawater to cool the building; this results in up to an 80% reduction on the electricity bill (Gerdes, 2011).

After reading these plans for sustainability, one might ask why more cities are not attempting to become carbon neutral?  One reason is the cost: an estimated $4.78 billion including private costs and total investments (Gerdes, 2011).  This might seem like an impossible price tag, but sustainability creates many new jobs, which will have positive impacts on the economy.  In addition, citizens of Copenhagen will save a lot of money on their future energy bills (Gerdes, 2011).  The goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2025 is an ambitious goal, but one that is necessary to slow the effects of climate change.  In time, hopefully other major cities will follow Copenhagen’s lead and actively work to reduce their carbon footprint.

Works Cited

Gerdes, J. (2011, April 11). Copenhagen’s ambitious push to be carbon neutral by 2025.

Retrieved from

Grundvig, J. (2013, January 22). Can copenhagen become the world’s first carbon

neutral city?. Retrieved from


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