Copenhagen’s Zero Carbon Plan

  • By: Owen McComasky
  • Date: September 12, 2020
  • Time to read: 4 min.

An Ambitious Approach Towards Carbon Neutrality


In The Race Against Climate Disaster, Copenhagen Wants the Gold Medal

When you visualise Denmark’s capital city, Copenhagen, what do you see? A paradise for cyclists? An interconnected public transport system? An underwhelming tourist attraction in the form of the Little Mermaid?


This little city has massive plans

Even before the Paris Agreement was finalised in December 2015, the Danes had realised that something must be done to reduce carbon emissions in order to avoid climate catastrophe. Copenhagen’s Climate Plan was drafted in 2012 and already shown some promising results in their attempts to become “the world’s first carbon neutral city”.


The Copenhagen Climate Plan focusses on 4 main areas of development: 

  • energy consumption
  • energy production
  • green mobility
  • city administration


Energy Consumption

With energy production being the biggest factor in their calculations to reduce emission by 1.2 million tonnes (the rest will be offset elsewhere in the country), energy consumption is the first on our list that’s up for discussion. It requires the participation of the citizens and businesses situated in Copenhagen. How will they overcome this particular challenge? 


The report states “In order to become carbon neutral by 2025, the city must use less energy than it does today and at the same time switch energy production to green sources.” 


This means Copenhageners will need to reduce their energy consumption by up to 20%, compared to 2010. They won’t be alone in their endeavours; the City of Copenhagen expects to spend 170,000,000 DKK – almost 23M – on retrofitting buildings, changing legislation, educating the public, and developing the necessary digital infrastructure for sharing public data as they develop their SMART city.


Energy Production

Copenhagen’s focus on energy production will amount to 74% of its CO2 reduction goals.


Their main strategies are to build 100 windmills by 2025, use waste as a resource, specifically separating organic waste & recycling efficiently, and using biomass & geothermal heat as a carbon-neutral energy supply. Basically, they will ensure that heavy plastics and other recyclable materials are properly taken care of while collecting organic matter for “biogasification”.


But how sustainable is the practice of incinerating waste for energy? Denmark has been incinerating waste for a long time. This kept the streets of Copenhagen cleaner and reduced the creation of methane release, water pollution and other toxic outcomes that come from landfills, but it has not been classified as a sustainable practice because it still creates CO2 emission and damages the circular economy.


Copenhagen’s new approach to incineration, however, is greener. Danes will still generate a lot of waste for the incinerators, but their approach seems to be a way of stabilising their energy needs while they address their large-scale trash addiction.


District heating and cooling is nothing new in Copenhagen. In fact, it moved away from centralised heat production in the early 20th Century, with the system being developed further in the 1970s when the Danes grew more concerned about the environmental and economic impact of using fossil fuels to heat their homes. The CPH 2025 Climate Plan’s goal is to make all district heating carbon neutral.  


Green Mobility

You may already be aware of this city’s integrated transport system, built for ease of travel and bike accessibility. You probably already know that bikes play a key role in Copenhagen’s past, present and future. With more investment going into the city’s green mobility plans, you can expect to see:


  • 50% of all journeys to work and school/university to be by bike
  • Cars running on electricity, hydrogen and biofuels
  • 20% increase in public transport use (compared to 2009)
  • More intelligent traffic management & planning


 With a 1 Billion DKK investment, and a 10% decrease in carbon emissions, this is a move for the citizens. Is Copenhagen on track to be the first 15-minute city too?!


City Administration

This is a chance to knock off an additional 20,000 tonnes of carbon emission in the city. 


The City of Copenhagen’s plans for city administration sets an example of how the previous three targets will be fulfilled. They will ensure that municipal buildings reduce their energy consumption and are retrofitted in order to be more energy-efficient.


Green mobility regulations will come into play, where city administration must drive EVs or hydrogen cars and larger vehicles could be fuelled by biogas, as Copenhagen uses them as a demonstration for alternative fuel technology for heavy vehicles.


Other city administration initiatives will include replacing street lights with LEDs and using their influence to “move the market in a more climate and environmentally conscious direction”.


By training city officials and their employees in a way where climate and the environment are taken into account with every action, Copenhagen is on course to show why they are one of the leading cities in the race to reduce carbon emissions.


Inspired by our post? Fancy a trip to Copenhagen to smell the clean air, visit the two oldest theme parks in the world (Bakken & Tivoli), taste the wonders of Copenhagen Street Food, and spend an evening drinking gin and playing board games at Bastard Cafe? Prepare for your trip with our advice on How to Travel More Sustainably



Bonus Facts

Did you know…in 2014, the London School of Economics and Political Science labelled Copenhagen a “Green Economy Leader”? 

Their green economy drivers ‘rank among the best in Europe and the world, including urban form, innovation, skills and employment, low carbon, and environmental quality’.  Read more about it and download the article here.

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