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1 April 2019

Copenhagen demonstrates that local governments are leading the way in fighting climate change

A recent article in the New York Times overviews Copenhagen’s (Denmark) efforts to become carbon neutral by 2025, reflecting the ways in which cities can and are leading the way in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Copenhagen is mitigating climate change through investing in renewable energy sources and mobility infrastructure. A new metro line will ensure that all residents live within 650 metres of a metro stop. And, an impressive 43 percent of locals commute daily by bicycle. The city’s mitigation efforts also include investing heavily in wind turbines. And, a new, high-tech waste incinerator, which sees rubbish turned into a source of local heat rather than sit in a landfill.

Copenhagen is also adapting to the local effects of climate change. The city is feeling and anticipating more intense rains and local impacts of sea-level rise. In response, the city is adapting by, for example, using nature-based solutions to collect water before it can drain.

Copenhagen’s Mayor, Frank Jensen, sees local governments as uniquely positioned to act on climate change. He explains to the New York Times that, “[Mayors] are directly responsible for our cities and our citizens, and they expect us to act.” A 2018 survey conducted by a Danish think tank echoes Mr. Jensen’s sentiment, finding that addressing climate change is a top issue concerning Danish citizens.

There is, however, a disconnect between levels of government. At the national level, fewer incentives are being put in place to reduce emissions via, for example, reducing car use. Challenges to additional efforts to “go green” are seen as largely political.

Despite Copenhagen’s impressive strides, solutions are not perfect. Furthermore, some critics argue that Copenhagen’s climate action does not focus enough on changing citizens’ habits. The innovations that are being put into place – such as generating energy from cleaner sources – do not seek to alter root behaviour and lessen consumption.

City officials say that current plans are only the start though, and that their green efforts will persist. This is impressive given that the article reports that, “the city has already cut emissions by 42% from 2005 levels.”

To read the original article in full, click here.