Copenhagen: A Pioneer for Climate Change

J Free

The world's first climate-neutral capital city

Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

Copenhagen aims to become the world's first climate-neutral capital city by 2025. This goal is supported by the "CPH 2025" climate plan, adopted by the city council in 2009. The city’s CO2 emissions are to be reduced to less than 1.2 million tons, after hitting the initial target of a 20% reduction by 2015 four years early. According to the Danish non-profit organization State of Green, Copenhagen has already reduced its CO2 emissions by 50% since 1995.

2014 European Green Capital

Photo: Ty Stange, Copenhagen Media Center

In 2014, the European Commission dubbed Copenhagen that year’s European Green Capital. The city was honored for its ambitious environmental goals and efforts to improve the quality of life of its citizens. The first ever European Green Capital Award, inaugurated in 2010, was given to another Scandinavian capital: Stockholm served as a role model for Copenhagen a few years later.

The world's first Bike City

Photo: Ty Stange, Copenhagen Media Center

The International Cycling Union (UCI) designated Copenhagen as the world's first official "Bike City" from 2008 to 2011. Once a widespread symbol of equality and freedom, cycling became increasingly popular in the 1920s and 1930s. In the 1970s, "car-free Sundays" were first introduced in Copenhagen as a response to protests asking for cars to be banned from the city.

Rain or shine

Photo by Max Adulyanukosol on Unsplash

Cold winds and rainy weather keep few residents from using their beloved bicycles: According to Visit Copenhagen, 75% of all Copenhageners bike year-round, rain or shine. 50% of commuters living in Copenhagen take their bike to work or school every day (in non-pandemic times, that is). Nine out of ten Danes own a bicycle, riding an average of 1.6 km per day.


Photo by Max Adulyanukosol on Unsplash

Copenhagen has its own embassy for bike riders. The municipal government is committed to making the city as cyclist-friendly as possible, and organizes bike tours that offer information on the city's cycling culture and infrastructure. The city’s “Green Bike Tours” are complete with facts about initiatives, green urban development and sustainable architecture. Danish architect and urban planner, Jan Gehl, is known for teaching other cities around the world how to plan and implement a bike culture. This process even has its own appropriate term: "Copenhagenization."

Citywide cycle superhighways

Photo: Ty Stange, Copenhagen Media Center

In Copenhagen, you’ll find more than five bicycles per car. Only 29% of households in Copenhagen even own a car in the first place. In turn, streets have already incorporated more than 390 kilometers of bike lanes citywide (in 2018), and plan to expand them to more than 850 kilometers. According to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the so-called "cycle superhighways" are continually being expanded throughout the region. The goal is to develop an infrastructure of cycle paths connecting the city with its suburbs. 27 municipalities are participating in the project to create safe and direct routes for cyclists. The first cycle superhighway was opened in 2012.

More room for bikes

Photo: Copenhagen Media Center

On the rare occasion that a bike might not be quick enough to get to a destination on time, Copenhageners can bring their bicycles along on trains free of charge. In addition, all cabs in Copenhagen are prepared to carry two bikes on designated car bike racks. More than 25% of all families with two children in Copenhagen own a cargo bike or bike trailer, Visit Copenhagen estimates.

All-electric buses

Photo by Josefin Hemker on Unsplash

To encourage the use of public transportation instead of cars, Copenhagen began rolling out electric buses in 2019. The initiative, as part of the "CPH 2025" project, sees public buses being completely carbon neutral by 2025. Charging stations for electric vehicles can already be found throughout the city as a way to support the transition to green mobility.

The world’s greenest hotels

Photo: Thomas Rockall Muus, Copenhagen Media Center

As of 2018, over 70% of all hotel rooms in the city were officially eco-certified. The Brøchner Hotel Group operates the world's first CO2-neutral hotel chain which includes six properties in Copenhagen. Also a proud Copenhagen staple, the climate-neutral, 366-room Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers is considered to be one of the world’s greenest hotels. It uses high-tech solar panels, produces biogas from its kitchen waste, and heats with groundwater.

Sustainable food practices

Photo: Martin Heiberg, Copenhagen Media Center

Organic food accounts for 24% of all food sales in Copenhagen, the highest in Denmark, and 88% of food consumption in Copenhagen's public institutions is organic, according to a statement from the city's official municipal website in 2018. In 2007, "BioM" opened as Copenhagen's first organic restaurant, and focuses on sustainability in all aspects, from its dishes to the interior’s décor and the employees’ clothing.

Daily water quality checks

Photo: Nicolai Perjesi, Copenhagen Media Center

In Denmark, you are never more than an hour away from the coast. But you don't have to travel far for a fun summer swim: Throughout all of Copenhagen, the waterfronts can be reached within 15 minutes. The harbor’s water quality has improved so vastly over recent years that visitors can swim in three of the city's harbors. The quality of the water is checked daily and must be approved by the authorities before swimmers can enter.

Climate-neutral buildings

Copyright: The VELUX Group, Credits: Adam Mørk

The Green Lighthouse by Christensen & Co Architects is Denmark's first public climate-neutral building. It opened in 2009 as part of the University of Copenhagen and uses daylight as its primary light source. The building uses 70% less energy due to its architecture and energy concept, according to official data from the European Portal for Energy Efficiency in Buildings.

Green habitats

Photo: Thomas Høyrup Christensen, Copenhagen Media Center

For a breath of extra fresh air, not far from the big city lies the coastal meadow Vestamager. Surrounded by greenery as far as the eye can see, 1200 cows, deer and horses live here to prevent the forest from spreading. The areas are neither sprayed nor fertilized and are also the habitat of insects, toads, frogs, salamanders and wading birds. The wading bird reserve can be observed from towers, while the rest of the area is inaccessible for visitors.

Green city guide

Photo: Maria Sattrup, Copenhagen Media Center

For those who want to discover Copenhagen’s sustainability in greater detail, Copenhagen Green offers a guide to 100 green places in the city. The online guide shows Copenhagen's best-known sights and offerings, as well as undiscovered places in the surrounding areas. The guide was created by Life Exhibitions for Foreningen by&Natur.

Spreading the word

Photo: Thomas Høyrup Christensen, Copenhagen Media Center

Denmark wants locals and tourists alike to learn about and promote the country's sustainability. The GoGreen Guide app makes it easy to discover sustainable products and services throughout Denmark. With just a few clicks, tourists can find info on sustainable businesses and initiatives, not just in and around Copenhagen. The app is available for free in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

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