ENVIRONMENT Copenhagen aims for Carbon Neutrality

The Copenhagen Climate Plan 2025 is a holistic plan with specific goals and initiatives in four areas – energy consumption, energy production, green mobility and the City Administration. The Climate Plan describes how carbon neutrality could be used to enhance quality of life by bringing innovation, job creation and investment in close cooperation with all concerned: City authorities, private sector, the utilities and the people of Copenhagen


With an area of 88 sq km and a population of 750,000 (in 2017), Copenhagen is the biggest metropolis in Scandinavia and boasts of the largest pedestrian system in the world. The element of sustainability can be well-rooted to the evolution of Copenhagen, conceived in the 1940s in the form of a five-finger concept that continued to mould its regional form.
Urban areas in this European city are aligned with linear corridors that are linked by transit and extend like fingers from the central core region.
For Copenhageners, the bicycle now forms the most popular and preferred mode of transport, which is very much evident by the fact that over 50% of the trips in the city are made by bike. No wonder the city claims to have 370 km of dedicated cycle lanes.
Besides, it has become the rationale for Copenhagen achieving the carbon neutrality target.


People there find bikes to be perhaps the cheapest yet fastest way to get around the city, lowering both carbon emissions and calories, thus serving to achieve double goals in one ride.
All of this has been aided by dedicated efforts put in for improving travel for cyclists – by creating shortcuts across waterways, over railroads and squares. Extra wide bicycle tracks have been created and 80% of bicycle routes have three lanes. All of this has collectively led to reduced travel time for cyclists by 15%, which has subsequently helped reduce accidents by about 70%.

Bicycle tracks are not something that have been laid separately, but are seamlessly integrated into the wider transport network. The easy shift in the mode of transport is a mere plus to the system as their public transport vehicles have cycle carriers attached, making it effortless to switch modes.

Also, the bicycle superhighways are safer, faster, and provide for continuous and comfortable way of travel. An interesting aspect is the ‘no missing links’ strategy, as the city is secured and connected by bike routes that are made more direct to key destinations.


There are also 43km of greenways that are green cycle routes, which have been provided away from the main roads through recreational spaces and parks to offer a pleasant riding experience through the city. The varied designs of cargo bikes give families a better alternative to the car.
Citizens have more savings as health expenses are reduced thanks to cycling. Healthier citizens reduce healthcare costs at a rate of 0.77 per km cycled, which is another quantifiable benefit apart from the improved quality of life.
Collectively, considering the total cost of air pollution, accidents and congestion, the city saves 0.06

euros for every km traversed by bike in place of car.
Electric vehicles make life in the city more liveable and sustainable and around 10% of private vehicles in Copenhagen are electric, hybrid or running on biofuels or hydrogen. Moreover, these electric cars are charged at night when the wind turbines often generate surplus power. Even large vehicles ply on alternative fuel, not diesel.

Green areas in Copenhagen include publicly owned spaces and a few private green areas which are accessible to the public and their use is guaranteed to the citizens. These green lungs vary in nature, size and location and nearly all are within a 15-minute radius.
Business areas are centred around transit stations and most are based within a one-km radar, enabling an effective walk-to-work culture and transit-oriented workplaces, boosting economy of the capital.

City of Copenhagen aims to reduce drastically carbon dioxide emissions. Approximately two-thirds of the carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced with enhanced use of wind turbines, biomass fuel and separating plastics from wastes before incineration

The city has adopted an integrated transport solution that incorporates physical and online integration between bus, train and metro services to facilitate seamless movement of passengers.
Another feature is the integration of bicycles into the public transport system.
The introduction of ‘Green Waves’ along some of the primary routes help prioritise cyclists by adapting the green light to bicycles travelling at 20km/hr so that they can ride smoothly with no breaks in between.

75% of journeys by foot, bicycle or public transport
50% of journeys to work or study by bicycle
~30% of light and heavy vehicles use new fuels
Fall in private car usage has helped curb carbon emissions and has improved the quality of life from convenient public transport. Green transport optimises urban space and moves a larger number of people in a more effective way, standing true to the famous saying “Reorienting people than cars.”

Well begun is half done goes well here, since if waste at source is minimised, half the issue is solved. By generating less waste, increasing direct reuse, recycling more and incinerating less, Copenhagen treats waste more as a resource.
It aims to have about 50% of household waste recycled by 2018 and emerge as a Zero Waste City by 2050.
This has helped save scares resources of Copenhagen whilst assisting in trading recyclable materials at market conditions.

This involves centralised production and distribution of chilled water that is partly cooled with the help of cold seawater. It is then distributed via underground insulated pipelines to end users in commercial and industrial buildings for air conditioning indoors.
It aids in driving down the urban heat island effect whilst helping to achieve zero noise, unlike conventional cooling methods. Not only does it diminish the CO2 emissions, it also results in moderating expenditure on energy imports.

Technologies such as Combined Heat & Power (CHP) to capture and reuse heat energy that is otherwise lost in electricity generation are to be implemented for decarbonising district heating. The network distributes heat energy efficiently around the city and integration of traditional and renewable fuels like biomass can further reduce the carbon intensity of the network.
This has helped create new jobs, lower district heating costs around 45% with negligible impact on air quality.

The harbour, which 15 years ago was fed with wastewater from 100 overflow channels making it heavily polluted, was transformed into a blue public space. Water quality improved with modernisation of the sewage system; the city then opened public baths and the harbour has today become one of the trendiest spots in the city.public_transport_christian_ All this could be accomplished by adopting a cleaning programme, diverting local rainwater as well as commissioning a strong urban design to create a recreational space.
The combination of innovations that have led into the making of a clean harbour have escalated the value of real estate, bettered the quality of life and tourism whilst having improved the water quality in the harbour.
Copenhageners are now employing new technologies to manage water better and to monitor and prevent leaks. Groundwater modelling and protection is used, behaviour changes are measured by water meters and pricing mechanisms are in accordance to reduce wasteful consumption of water.
The public has access to high quality water directly from the tap which has consequently led to stopping the chemical treatment of drinking water. Moreover, water losses have been reduced to a 7% low as also the demand for bottled water has diminished.

Amongst the highest in the world, about 22% of Denmark’s total electricity consumption is produced by the wind turbines. Their practice of local ownership, which owns high class technology, has helped overcome the ‘not in my backyard’ attitude and exercise accountability, in sync with their public awareness campaign.
This has led to creation of employment and has helped boost the green economy. By the vision year 2025, the city owned utility company plans to build over 100 new wind turbines based on the CCC Plan.

With increase in population, Copenhagen doesn’t offer opportunities for new parks and recreational areas. But this gave rise to two novel phenomena inspired by New York and Zurich: green roofs and pocket parks.
A small urban green spot located abutting the surrounding streets, is what a pocket park basically is. Besides 14 of them, green bicycle routes ensure the Copenhageners ride their way to the urban recreational spaces in not more than 15 minutes.
With a clear vision, defined goals, well-laid out plans, synchronised policies, determined officials and supportive public, the accomplishment of ‘Carbon Neutrality by 2025’ looks not far to this Denmark capital. The plan is a well-structured and efficiently planned document, and shall beget a stance for Copenhagen that other cities across continents will in turn strive to follow suit.

Sejal Mathur studies at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. She can be contacted at her mail id: sejalmathur29@gmail.com