Cities - 07/October/2019

Copenhagen struggles to clear the capital of carbon

A goal to become the first carbon neutral capital city as early as 2025 is at least partly dependent on Denmark’s new national government throwing its weight behind Copenhagen’s aspirations

Much has been achieved since 2005 to decarbonise Copenhagen within 20 years, but the city has used up its easy emission reduction options without even reaching half way. A city alone has limited powers to act. To complete its journey, Copenhagen needs the national government to step in with tough legislation, particularly on switching road transport off fossil fuel

Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital city, was an early mover on the energy transition and is often hailed by other cities as an example to follow. In the 12 years between 2005 and 2017 the city reduced its carbon emissions by 42%. The reduction would sound impressive were it not for the fact Copenhagen intends to reach zero emissions in barely half the time it took to achieve this decrease, well knowing the easiest cuts have already been made. “We are facing a gigantic task,” says Jørgen Abildgaard, project manager of the city’s climate plan.

The idea of becoming a climate neutral city was born in 2007, when Copenhagen was gearing up to host the COP15 UN Climate Summit in December 2009. Both the Danish government and municipalities were interested in using the summit to showcase the country’s standing as a climate action frontrunner. “Research and analysis was initiated to find out what was possible,” says Abildgaard. “At a conference at the city hall, experts suggested the 2025 target of carbon neutrality. In 2009, the city council decided to pursue that goal and in 2012, the Copenhagen 2025 Climate Plan became reality.”

But the midway report from June 2018 shows Copenhagen has a long way to go. On its current trajectory, the city and its 800,000 population will still be pumping out around 200,000 tonnes of carbon every year by 2025.
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This article is part of our special series looking indepth at how cities hold the key to the energy transition. All stories in the series will appear on our website and in the latest edition of our magazine to be published at the beginning of October 2019.

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