Around the world, more than 70 major cities have pledged to end their reliance on fossil fuels and stop pumping out climate-changing emissions by 2050.
But Copenhagen – a city of wind turbines, bicycles and reliable public transportation – thinks it can go even further: It intends to accomplish that shift in just seven years.
It will require a complete re imagining of how the Danish capital is powered and designed – and a lot of cyclists, officials admit.
“Why are we going for that? People might say what we do in Copenhagen doesn’t really matter on the global stage at all. We are tiny,” said Jørgen Abildgaard, director of the city’s climate programme.
But with cities and countries around the world still searching for ways to turn the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change into a reality, “it’s important to show that it’s possible to make this transition” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Scandinavian cities have long been seen as green leaders – and Copenhagen is no exception.
While other cities have parking garages for cars, Copenhagen has them for bicycles. Virtually all its 600,000 residents own a bicycle, and the city has 375 kilometres of dedicated cycle lanes.
The harbour-rimmed municipality also is mostly powered by clean energy – and it has its own renewable energy company and wind turbines.
Running its own energy systems is one of the reasons Copenhagen is already well on track to being carbon neutral – meaning it will produce no more carbon emissions than it can offset elsewhere – by 2025.
The city’s concerted efforts to go green put it firmly ahead of the schedule set by almost 200 nations in Paris to effectively phase out greenhouse gases between 2050 and 2100.
Leading climate scientists will warn next week that global carbon emissions from energy use will have to plunge by up to seven percent a year to meet Paris’ toughest goals unless technologies to suck carbon from the air and store it are developed, according to a draft UN report obtained by Reuters.
Copenhagen’s officials are confident the city can largely achieve its ambitious goals.
“We want to be 100 per cent (carbon neutral by 2025). But if we are 95 percent or around that, it’s still a big success,”said Abildgaard, who has overseen the city’s efforts toward carbon neutrality ever since it made its pledge in 2009, when it hosted UN climate talks.
In 2017, Copenhagen produced about 1.37 million tonnes of climate-changing gases, down 40 per cent from 2005, according to city figures.