Copenhagen Aspires to be the First Carbon Neutral Capital in the World

The City Council of Copenhagen is aiming to make the capital carbon neutral by 2025 – the first capital city in the world to do so. CO2 emissions have already been reduced by 21 % since 2005.

By Bo Normander

On the 23rd of August, 2012, it is expected that a majority of votes at the Copenhagen City Council will pass the CPH 2025 Climate Plan with the ambition of carbon neutrality by 2025.

Despite the meagre results of the international COP15 Climate Conference in Copenhagen a few years ago, the city has kept on focusing on the consequences of climate change and now wants to lead the way towards a carbon neutral future.

The initiatives in the “CPH 2025 Climate Plan” include the conversion of the area’s two main power plants from coal to wood chips and straw, the construction of 100 large wind turbines at sea, a geothermal facility, recycling plastic from municipal waste, and increased production of biogas from organic waste. Moreover, in order to reduce energy consumption, buildings are to be retrofitted and 280,000 square metres - or 40 football pitches - of solar panels will be installed.

These measures will not just strengthen energy security but are environmentally positive. The new wind-turbines alone should lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions of 650,000 tonnes in 2025, which accounted for one third of the city’s total emissions in 2011.


Photo credits: Copenhagen Municipality

Back in 2009, the same year as the COP15 Conference was held, the Copenhagen Climate Plan up to 2015 was adopted. The initiatives which were launched have contributed to substantial CO2 reductions. The goal of a 20 % reduction by 2015 was already achieved by 2011, when CO2 emissions were reduced by 21 % compared to 2005. Today, Copenhagen emits 1.9 million tonnes of CO2. By 2025, this should be reduced to 1.16 million tonnes.

The Climate Plan encompasses a number of concrete initiatives within four focal areas: energy supply, energy consumption, green mobility, and green municipality.

Energy Supply

To achieve carbon neutrality it is crucial for Copenhagen to go from the use of coal to biomass and wind power. The two main power plants of the Copenhagen area, Avedøre and Amager, will be converted from coal to wood chips and straw. In this way, the central production of electricity and heating will become carbon neutral.

Four areas have been pointed out for installing wind turbines; Kalvebod Syd, Prøvestenen, Nordhavn, and Lynetten. Most of the 100 turbines planned will be at sea and should lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions of 650,000 tonnes by 2025. A geothermal facility is also planned to support the project. Finally, recycling of plastic from municipal waste and increased production of biogas from organic waste will also count toward significant CO2 reductions.

Energy Consumption

One of the bigger challenges for Copenhagen will be to upgrade its buildings. Copenhagen architecture varies from old medieval buildings in the Latin Quarter to modern buildings in Ørestaden and on Holmen Island. All renovation and construction projects must share the goal to reduce energy consumption with the goal to reduce heating consumption by 25 % and electricity consumption by 20 % by 2025.

To achieve these goals, all renovation projects will implement energy saving measures and retrofit buildings. This includes the use of low energy window glass, LED lightning and solar panels. All new constructions will follow the lowest energy class (the 2020 class = less than 20 kWh per m2 per year). In addition, Copenhagen will install 280,000 m2 of solar panels, corresponding to 1 % of the total electricity consumption.


Photo credits: Copenhagen Municipality

Green Mobility

Copenhagen is widely known as a city of bikes. The municipality alone has more than 350 km of bicycle lanes and on the busiest lanes 20-30,000 cyclists pass by daily. Of all citizens commuting to work and to educational institutions, 36 % are commuting by bike. Hopefully, this number should increase to 50 % in 2025 according to the climate plan. Among the initiatives, a new 300 km network of so-called ‘super biking lanes’ is planned to connect commuters from the suburbs to inner Copenhagen. Lanes will be wide, smoothly paved, and regulated by green light waves – traffic lights which are set to the speed of bikes (approximately 20 km per hour) to minimise stops at road crossings.

On top of following the ambition of becoming one of the world's premier biking cities, Copenhagen will invest in other green mobility initiatives to meet the goals of converting 20-30% of the car fleet from fossil fuel dependent to electrical vehicles and 30-40% of heavy vehicles from diesel to biogas. The Copenhagen Municipality has already decided to convert its own car fleet to electricity.

Green Municipality

If Copenhagen is to meet its ambitious 2025 climate goals, the municipality on its own must show the way for its citizens. Therefore, the municipality will reduce energy consumption in its own buildings – such as schools, institutions, and offices – by 45 %. A full scale policy to replace street lights with LED technology will cut energy use by half for street lighting. Finally, campaigns and education of the municipality’s 50,000 employees should promote climate friendly awareness.


Distribution of the CO2 reduction in 2025 caused by the initiatives in the climate plan.

Investing in the Future

The total municipal investment needs for these initiatives is estimated at € 360 million. However, it is believed that these investments will yield significant returns, as they will help make companies and universities more competitive in developing green solutions as well as avoiding the ongoing financial and environmental costs of higher energy consumption. The Copenhagen Climate Plan hopes to become a true example of a green economy that will inspire cities around the globe.

The Copenhagen Climate Plan 2025 can be found here (in English).