Copenhagen Wants to Show How Cities Can Fight Climate Change

COPENHAGEN — Can a city cancel out its greenhouse gas emissions?

Copenhagen intends to, as well as fast. By 2025, This kind of once-grimy industrial city aims to be net carbon neutral, meaning the idea plans to generate more renewable energy than the dirty energy the idea consumes.

Here’s why the idea matters to the rest of the planet: Half of humanity currently lives in cities, as well as the vast share of planet-warming gases come through cities. The big fixes for climate change need to come through cities too. They are both a problem as well as a potential source of solutions.

The experience of Copenhagen, home to 624,000 people, can show what’s possible, as well as what’s tough, for different urban governments on a warming planet.

The mayor, Frank Jensen, said cities “can change the way we behave, the way we are living, as well as go more green.” His city has some advantages. the idea is usually smaller, the idea is usually rich as well as its people care a lot about climate change.

Mr. Jensen said mayors, more than national politicians, felt the pressure to take action. “We are directly responsible for our cities as well as our citizens, as well as they expect us to act,” he said.

Want climate news in your inbox? Sign up here for Climate Fwd:, our email newsletter.

inside case of Copenhagen, which means changing how people get around, how they heat their homes, as well as what they do with their trash. The city has already cut its emissions by 42 percent through 2005 levels, mainly by moving away through fossil fuels to generate heat as well as electricity.

Politics, though, is usually producing the idea hard to go further. A municipal government can only do so much when the idea doesn’t hold the full support of those who run the country. Mr. Jensen, 57, a left-of-center Social Democrat, for instance, has failed to persuade the national government, led by a center-right party, to impose restrictions on diesel-guzzling vehicles inside capital. Transportation accounts for a third of the city’s carbon footprint; the idea is usually the largest single sector as well as the idea is usually growing.

By contrast, the national government, in a move which its critics say encouraged private car use, has lowered car-registration taxes. The transportation minister, Ole Birk Olesen, said the government wanted to reduce what he called “the over-taxation of cars,” though he added which, ideally, Danes might buy only zero-emissions cars inside coming decades.

as well as so, Copenhagen’s goal to be carbon neutral faces a hurdle which is usually common around the planet: a divide between the interests of people who live in cities as well as those who live outside.

Many opposition politicians as well as independent analysts say they doubt Copenhagen can meet its 2025 target, as well as some critics say the plan focuses too much on trying to balance the city’s carbon books rather than change the way people actually live.

“We run around in fossil fuel burning cars, we eat a lot of meat, we buy a hell of a lot of clothes,” said Fanny Broholm, a spokeswoman for Alternativet, a left-of-center green party. “The goal is usually not ambitious enough as the idea is usually, as well as we can’t even reach This kind of goal.”

Mr. Jensen, for his part, is usually bullish on what he calls the capital’s “green transformation.” City officials say This kind of is usually only the start.

A brand new Metro line, scheduled to open This kind of year, will put the vast majority of the city’s residents within 650 meters, a bit less than half a mile, of a station. Bicycle paths are already three lanes wide on busy routes for the whopping 43 percent of Copenhageners who commute to work as well as school by bike — even on wet, windy days, which are plentiful.

All which wind helps generate the city’s electricity. Buildings are heated, in part, by burning garbage in a brand new high-tech incinerator — what garbage there is usually to burn, which is usually, considering which every apartment building currently has eight separate recycling bins. For every unit of fossil fuels the idea consumes, Copenhagen intends to sell units of renewable energy. The city has invested heavily in wind turbines.

In big cities, you hold the money as well as the scale to change things, Mr. Jensen said as he led me on a bike tour through City Hall, where excavations for a brand new Metro station recently turned up the remains of two Vikings. We crossed a bicycle bridge which led to a once-industrial district, currently home to trendy restaurants.

As we rode, Mr. Jensen talked about parliamentary polls set with This kind of spring. “Elections will come up inside next few months, as well as a lot of people living inside suburbs still have diesel cars,” he said. “the idea’s a political challenge. the idea’s not a technological challenge.”

For Copenhagen, the path to carbon neutrality is usually paved with imperfect solutions.

Some of the city’s power plants have switched through coal to wood pellets, shipped in through the Baltics. which’s carbon neutral, in principle, if more trees can be planted in place of those which are cut down, as well as which has helped the city bring down its emissions significantly. however burning wood produces emissions; a lawsuit filed inside European Court of Justice argued which wood pellets should not count as renewable energy. Critics contend which big public investments in biomass only compel the city to use the idea for years to come.

Then, there’s garbage. The city recently opened a $660 million incinerator, 85 meters tall, or about 280 feet, resembling a shiny half-built pyramid, with an even taller stack. the idea’s just a short walk through one of the city’s most common restaurants, Noma. Designed by one of the country’s best-known architects, Bjarke Ingels, the idea comes which has a year-round ski slope to attract visitors (as well as recoup some of the expenses). The mayor was one of the first to take a test run.

Every day, 300 trucks bring garbage to be fed into its enormous furnace, including trash imported through Britain. which features a carbon footprint, too. however the chief engineer, Peter Blinksbjerg, pointed out which instead of going into a landfill, the rubbish of modern life is usually transformed into something useful: heat for the city’s long, cold winters.

Scrubbers remove most chemical pollutants before releasing steam into the air. By summer, a cafe is usually set to open inside shadow of the stack.

Pedaling through the city these days, the idea is usually difficult to imagine what Copenhagen once looked like. There were factories inside narrow streets as well as ships inside oil-stained harbor. Coal-fired power plants brought electricity. The air was smoggy. A generation of city dwellers moved out to the clean-air suburbs.

Today, even on wintry, wet days, commuters move along a busy bike highway which connects the warrens of the oldest part of the city, where some buildings date to the 1400s, to the northern neighborhoods, whizzing past the stately apartment blocks which overlook the lake. The bike lane is usually slightly elevated above the automobile lane, which feels safer than just a white line which demarcates bike lanes in many different cities.

Inside a cozy neighborhood cafe, a medical student named Mariam Hleihel said she welcomed Mr. Jensen’s efforts to reduce the number of polluting cars inside city. “If we don’t do anything about the idea currently, the consequences could be irreversible,” she said.