Copenhagen - On Road to a Zero Carbon City

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City Administration

To act as a role model and an important contributor, the city administration planned to bring about a reduction of 20,000 tonnes of CO2 through efforts in activities under its own purview. It planned to reduce energy consumption in municipal buildings by 40 per cent, reduce electricity consumed by street lights by half, and install 60,000 square meter solar panels on existing and new municipal buildings. It also planned to construct new buildings as per improved norms. It planned to collaborate with knowledge institutions as well as private and public organizations to create and disseminate knowledge on building processes, retrofitting, and new building design with climate adaptation.


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Investment And Benefits

An investment of DKK 20 - 25 billion was expected to be made on the initiatives envisaged in the climate plan. The initiatives were expected to result in the creation of 29,000 to 35,000 man years of jobs in the city. The viability of the initiatives was based on the expectation that the price of conventional fossil energy sources like coal, oil, and gas would increase in the future. The measures envisaged in the climate plan were expected to help improve the health of citizens and their quality of life due to a reduction in congestion, noise, and pollution.

The Bicycle Culture

The cycle culture in Denmark dated back to the 1880s. One of the important contributors to Copenhagen's journey to carbon neutrality was its culture. Copenhagen was famous around the world for its biking culture and it aimed to become the world's best cycling city. Several initiatives by the authorities had helped in popularizing the bike culture. Cycle Super Highways with facilities for cyclists had been created as also 'Green Waves' - green lights all the way through routes with frequent stop lights. Till the end of 2012, free bike rentals were provided to visitors through 'bycyklen kobenhavn' .

Involving Stakeholders

The city focused on the business community in its efforts since this segment accounted for 46 per cent of the 2,600 GWh electricity consumption by the city during 2010 and also because electricity consumption was the source of around 50 percent of carbon emissions from the city. "Green Business' - the city's environmental network, and a European Union funded project "Carbon20' to cut carbon emissions by 20 per cent through partnerships with enterprises were aimed at focusing on results from this section. The city also took up renovation of schools and sports facilities to make them more energy efficient and initiated a climate campaign for its own employees. Wind turbines - a carbon neutral source of electricity - were expected to contribute significantly in this direction.


The OECD report on measuring the potential of local green growth identified Copenhagen as a leader among green cities. The report recognized the progress Copenhagen was making in its transition to a green economy. It pointed out that Euro 12 billion of the total Euro 30 billion turnover of companies in the region in 2011 was related to clean-tech-related activities. Also 34,000 of the 78,000 people employed in these companies were working directly with clean-tech-related activities. The study showed that the green turnover and export of green technology had outgrown other sectors of the local economy during the period 2004 to 2009.

Looking Ahead

According to a dashboard developed as part of the OECD monitoring framework, Copenhagen was performing well on economic opportunities and environmental and resource productivity. There was further scope for progress in the spheres of policy responses and green skills ecosystem (Refer to Table IV). One of the challenges in implementing the plan was bringing about the changes in legislation that some of the measures entailed. A congestion charge proposal to reduce traffic jams and air pollution caused by cars was scrapped because of objections raised against it within the government. Similarly, changes in legislation were necessary to bring about a change in incentives to convert coal-based combined heat and power plants to biomass and a change in incentives for the installation of windmills in coastal areas.


Exhibit I: Cisco's Revenue and Profits: 1995-2010
Exhibit II: Distribution of the Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the City of Copenhagen (2010)
Exhibit III: The Copenhagen Climate Plan 2009
Exhibit IV: Copenhagen's Performance as per OECD Monitoring Framework