Copenhagen makes an ambitious push to be carbon neutral by 2025
More bicycle lanes, biomass generation, public transit, cooling buildings with seawater – it's all intended to make Copenhagen the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025.
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The question is even more relevant today. Intent on reducing transportation’s share of the total city emissions, currently 22 percent, Copenhagen is expanding its cycling and public transit infrastructure to attract even more users. The improvements include “green wave” traffic signals set to the speed of oncoming bikes, angled footrests that enable cyclists to rest without dismounting at intersections, and an additional 44 miles of cycle tracks — paved paths separated from cars and pedestrians by curbs. To entice suburban commuters to abandon cars for bikes, Copenhagen is partnering with neighboring cities to add wider, smoother, better-lit cycle tracks. In April 2012, the first so-called “bike superhighway,” an 11-mile link connecting Albertslund with Copenhagen, opened. Two more are under construction and a total of 26 are planned, Normander said. By 2025, the city wants 75 percent of trips to be made by foot, bike, or public transit.Skip to next paragraph
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The city will also invest in alternative fuels. Abildgaard said Copenhagen is looking to convert its bus fleet to models powered by hybrid drives running on biogas. The city projects that 20 percent to 30 percent of all cars and small trucks, and 30 percent to 40 percent of all heavy vehicles, will run on electricity, hydrogen, biogas, or bioethanol by 2025. By 2015, 85 percent of the city’s fleet of 1,000 small vehicles will run on electricity, hydrogen, or biofuels, officials say.
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What will all this cost? Direct city investment in the 2025 Climate Plan is estimated to be $472 million through 2025. Add private funds and total investment could hit $4.78 billion over the same period, Copenhagen officials say. “We can see that we have to invest a lot of money to reach the target,” Mayor Jensen told me. “But we can see also that we can create a lot of new jobs with that huge investment. Copenhagen can be a green laboratory for developing and testing new green solutions.”
Normander was upfront about the challenges. He will be watching to see, for instance, if the Avedøre and Amager power plants can sustainably source enough biomass. And he worries that as Copenhagen adds 1,000 residents per month, traffic will increase, even though the city lacks room for additional cars.
“It’s a very ambitious plan,” he said. “But it’s also something we can do.”
• Justin Gerdes is an independent journalist specializing in energy issues who is based in Concord, Calif. His work has appeared at Forbes.com, Motherjones.com, GreenBiz.com, and Chinadialogue. From October 2008 to December 2009, he worked as an editor and writer for Monday Morning, a publishing house and think tank based in Copenhagen. The reporting for this article was supported by a grant from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs International Press Initiative.