With the urgency of climate change being highlighted more than ever, many countries are racing to be the first carbon-neutral country in the world. Cities in Denmark, Finland, and Spain are leading currently so how can we learn from them?
The goal is to achieve ‘net zero’, referring to the balance between the greenhouse gases produced and removed from the atmosphere, and the first city predicted to reach this goal is none other than the city of fairy tales, known to be the happiest city in the world. That would be Copenhagen, located in Denmark. A place famous for its beer breweries; a city filled with community spirit.
Taking its ‘sustainability credentials’ into account, Copenhagen is on track to being carbon-neutral in 2025 - three years from now - aiming to be the first. In order to do this, 75% of transportation would have to be transferred to bikes, public transport, or walking. 100% of all its heating should come from renewable sources too. It’s no easy feat but regarding how it has committed with facilities like ‘CopenHill’, which is a sports centre atop a waste-to-energy plant that supports many homes and businesses, there is a high likelihood.
So the question is, how is society in the acclaimed greenest city? Let’s take a look at where you may live, what you may eat and more.
One, Copenhagen is known for its urban farms. Across Denmark’s capital, these urban farms open up opportunities for the citizens to support community initiatives and encourage biodiversity. An example would be Øens Have - an urban farm and a restaurant that allows public dining events, lets locals grow or buy produce, and learn about organic agriculture. Besides that, the city also grows regenerative crops (a farming practice that rebuilds soil organic matter and restores degraded soil), such as seaweed at its harbours.
Second, using recycling as a resource. Copenhagen has recycled buildings! The whole construction industry is one of the world’s largest contributors to pollution so the city has started innovative initiatives to fight against this. For example, Lendager Group is a firm that is working on a plan to use materials from abandoned homes to build Denmark’s first recycled residential area. As a result, it is predicted to reduce the amount of CO2 produced by 29%.
Third, on the runway, Copenhagen is going sustainable! From thrift stores to flea markets, the city has been well known to be a forerunner in sustainable fashion. Copenhagen’s Fashion Week 2023 Sustainability Requirements itself is evidence, requesting for the city’s fashion brands to achieve a minimum standard to take part in the event. On the topic of shopping, you can shop at places like: Les Deux’s Rewear - an enterprise allowing customers to sell and buy second hand from the brand, Trendsales - an app popular for circular shopping, and Reshopper - a marketplace for second hand children’s clothes and toys, while serving as a meet-up place for parents too.
There are many more initiatives the city has taken like changing the game for bike infrastructure or having green grocery apps that motivate local produce. We can’t help but ask: what can other cities do?
Countries need a plan to rely and fall back on, but it must be effective and holistic. The CPH 2025 Climate Plan has ‘4 pillars’, being Energy Consumption, Energy Production, Mobility, and City Administration, and they also have three implementation phases. Having these phases allow them to conduct evaluation in between to see how they could improve the plan.
The first thing that Copenhagen believes is necessary to their target is cooperation. As aforementioned, the city works together with residents, companies, and authorities through partnerships like the Sustainable Bottom Line, the Big Buyers Initiative, and more. These are all efforts that enable Danish and international operators to attempt solutions in the city, along with technologies. With the Carbon Neutral City Alliance, C40, and more projects, the city is planning to conduct more collaborations to ‘develop and disseminate climate solutions.’
This only emphasises on the importance of collaboration because at the end of the day, everyone wants a greener, more livable world and working together is the way to do it.
Another initiative that Copenhagen has done is work together with the Amager Resource Centre to start a Carbon Capture facility. The city has committed itself to conduct investigation projects and the impact Carbon Capture will have on cities. If we were to become carbon neutral, countries should be open to implementing new and greener technologies but always through proper research. This also comes as a result of collaborations with other cities and even a Norwegian NGO known as ‘Bellona’.
You may have noticed how Copenhagen doesn’t really stress on establishing laws and policies made by the government in their plan. Although these are effective, it doesn’t include everyone. Copenhagen has set a good example in bringing the community together through partnerships. From the examples above, you would see that they all involve groups of people together through public dining events to meet-ups for parents.
The progress of Copenhagen only goes to show that alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much.