Low-Carbon Copenhagen by Timothy Beatley, University of Virginia October 2009
Commissioned by Engineering Timelines www.engineering-timelines.com
Part of the Low Carbon Copenhagen project funded by The RambĂ¸ll Foundation
Low-Carbon Copenhagen by Timothy Beatley, University of Virginia October 2009
In 2009 Copenhagen, vowed to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital city by 2025. Copenhagen has a long history of progressive urban and environmental planning. The Danes pioneered many of the ideas, strategies and technologies that others are only now discovering — pedestrianised streets, city bikes and large-scale district heating, to name a few. Now they are making an international splash by declaring their goal of making Copenhagen the world’s first carbon-neutral capital city, a goal they intend to reach by 2025, with a 20% reduction in carbon emissions by 2015. Copenhagen is especially impressive in that it excels in not just one or two areas. Indeed a key lesson to learn from it is that a comprehensive approach to urban planning is essential. Low-energy buildings on their own accomplish little without access to public transport. Successful pedestrianisation and cycling strategies go hand-in-hand with compact land use and urban form. Energy efficiency is important but so is developing new and better renewable energy generation technologies. Copenhagen is doing it all, exploiting the opportunities generated by the Danes’ comprehensive agenda. Not all cities would be able to pull it off so well. Copenhagen has many things going for it — a history of environmental and social progression, a relatively small area and relative affluence, popular approval and national initiatives such as a carbon tax — that support local sustainability programmes. Copenhagen proves that quality-of-life need not suffer from an aggressive sustainability agenda. The opposite can be true. Well thought out and integrated cycle networks, for instance, are hugely popular and enhance the liveability of cities. With some technologies, though, a direct quality-of-life connection may seem less clear. However, the Copenhagen model demonstrates that urban planning for sustainability can spur economic growth and, in turn, employment — one measure of quality-of- life, to be sure. Coming up in this article … … some facts about Copenhagen … a short history of ‘green’ Copenhagen … urban planning and transport … low-carbon and renewable energy technologies … low-energy building
SOME FACTS ABOUT COPENHAGEN The metropolitan area of Copenhagen contains about 2.1 million residents, with about 500,000 in the City proper. The region consists of the cities of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg, and three counties (Copenhagen, Frederiksberg and Roskilde), and covers an area of 2870 km2, of which the City of Copenhagen occupies about 90 Km2. A SHORT HISTORY OF ‘GREEN’ COPENHAGEN As the more detailed policy review that follows indicates, Copenhagen’s low-carbon effort is characterised not just by one or two programmes but by good practice and planning in a number of policy areas. These include transport, efficient heating and energy delivery, renewable energy generation and low-energy building. Since each of these areas has its own unique history, efforts at generalising across them are problematic. Nevertheless, some trends are evident. Above all, regional planning in Copenhagen has a relatively long history, starting early in the 20th Century. Long-standing regional plans have laid the foundations for sustainable, compact urban form and the significant low-carbon progress made in many of the other sectors, such as public transport and walkability. The 1960s and 1970s were an especially important period for Copenhagen, a time of growing social activism and environmental awareness. 1962 saw the beginning of the city’s efforts to recapture the public and pedestrian realm from cars, an initiative that nurtured many of the urban qualities for which the city is famous. The oil crisis of the early 1970s was also a significant catalyst, spurring the city’s interest in all things ‘green’, including cycling, walking, mass public transport and urban ecology. While many American cities quickly forgot the shocks of the 1970s, Copenhagen learned from them. Thus a strong commitment to urban ecology and sustainability was established in the 1960s and 1970s. The squatter movement of the early 1970s and the creation of the Christiania community on former military harbour-side land further reflect the city’s countercultural and bohemian tendencies. Political philosophy and culture are also important in explaining Danish commitments to good planning, public space and environment. Governments post-World War II have been led by social democrats; Denmark has put in place an extensive social welfare system that emphasises the collective good over individual profit. Generous social programmes, medical care, maternity leave and public daycare are all important elements of the social and environmental context of Copenhagen (see Colebatch, 2008; Holmquist, 2005; Polakow, 1997). The 1990s saw some early efforts at promoting low-energy building and urban ecological renovation, topics the city has continued to pursue. The ecological renovation of the Hedebygade block in the inner-city district of Vesterbro received substantial international attention and recognition. Restoration of 1880s dilapidated
housing began in 1998, and included such innovative features as new solar energy designs and creative daylighting techniques, rainwater collection, ecological courtyards, and waste management and recycling. The city’s commitment to sustainable building has continued, with the adoption of minimum building standards and the completion of the Stenurten ecological daycare centre in 2002 — the first city facility to be completed under the mandatory sustainable building standards (see City of Copenhagen 2006). The standards apply to all new city, city-funded or city-subsidised structures and identify minimum requirements, such as those for energy, water, materials, waste and noise. Many of the mandates are quite precise; for instance, no new office or municipal structure may use more than 34 litres of water per person per day (100 litres for households; City of Copenhagen, 2006, p.25). There are also recommended measures to assist city departments and developers to go even further in their designs. The last decade especially has seen a speeding up of achievements and the setting of priorities. Recent initiatives include support for new renewable energy commitments and projects. Examples include the Middlegrunden wind park that opened in 2002, a new underground Metro system to complement the already impressive train and transit system, a Green Cycle Routes programme and even more ambitious building guidelines. These all embody Copenhagen’s vision of becoming an ‘eco-metropole’ and the world’s first carbon-neutral capital city. Table 1 below presents a timeline of significant events, programmes and policies in the evolution of a comprehensive low-carbon approach in Copenhagen. Table 1 A Timeline for Low-Carbon Copenhagen: Significant Events and Policy Milestones
Regional Council for Copenhagen appointed Green Areas of Copenhagen Plan Regional ‘Finger Plan’ Strøget—first pedestrian street created Christiania squatter housing Oil Crisis/shortage Heat Supply Act enacted (incentives for district heating) Metropolitan Copenhagen Heating Transmission created First geothermal heating plant on line Renovation of Town Hall Square Local Agenda 21 First Traffic and Transport Plan Construction begins on Hedebygade renovation First Sustainable Urban Renewal & Constr. guidelines Øresund Bridge opened Middlegrunden wind farm completed Metro opens (first phase)
1929 1936 1947 1962 1971 1973 1979 1984 1988 1996 1997 1997 1998 1998 2000 2000 2002
Stenurten ecological daycare completed Copenhagen Park Policy Eco-Metropole Vision for 2015 Declares will be first carbon-neutral capital city Copenhagen Climate Plan
2002 2003 2007 2009 2009
URBAN PLANNING AND TRANSPORT Copenhagen is a notable city for urban planners for its long history of commitment to a compact and sustainable regional urban form. The 1947 regional plan was especially instrumental. Known as the Finger Plan, it served to acknowledge and extend into the future the growth of the city along designated ‘fingers’, following the city’s train routes. Under this plan, growth follows these key transit corridors, with large wedges of greenspace between the fingers, extending into the heart of the city. While there has been some controversy in recent years over the loss of some of this greenspace (notably in the case of the Ørestad development), this impressive green network remains largely intact. Copenhageners have a remarkable amount of greenspace within a short walk or bicycle ride. They enjoy tremendous mobility and transit access, as well as close proximity to nature. More recent regional plans have continued this general pattern and have delineated new growth areas, for which localities must then prepare more detailed implementation plans. The region’s transit system consists of an extensive rail network and a new Metro system, the first leg of which opened in 2002. This system, built in three phases, now totals 21km in length. Importantly, the lines serve the new urban district of Ørestad and provide a transit connection to Copenhagen’s airport. Car use has historically been discouraged in Denmark through high taxes on cars and on petrol, common to many European countries. Indeed new car purchases are subject to a 180% vehicle registration tax, a fairly sizeable disincentive to say the least. Electric vehicles have been exempt from this tax, and recently the Danish government extended the exemption through 2015 (Copenhagen Post, 2009). Copenhagen has one of the lowest rates of car ownership among European cities, with an estimated 208 cars per 1000 population (Travel and Transport Research, 2005). Table 2 below compares Copenhagen’s rate of car ownership with other selected European cities. Table 2 Car Ownership per 1000 population
Rome Stuttgart Madrid London Barcelona Copenhagen
665 523 431 365 350 208
Source: Travel and Transport Research, 2005
Copenhagen has been an inspired leader in promoting the use of bicycles. Most importantly, the city has invested in the infrastructure that makes it safer and easy to get around by bike, such as designated lanes and movement spaces, bicycle bridges and bike parking facilities. A good example is the new Nørrebro bicycle and pedestrian bridge, opened in June, 2008. Most intersections in the city, moreover, provide separate lighting for bicycles, with a 9 second advance green light over cars, so that bicycles move through an intersection significantly ahead of car traffic. These measures make it easy, safer and comfortable to ride to almost any destination in the city. In 2007, the city even synchronized the intersection lights along a 2.5km stretch of the busy Nørrebrogade, a major bicycle corridor, to benefit bicycle commuters. And the success is in the numbers. Already nearly 40% of home-to-work trips in Copenhagen are made by bicycle, an extraordinary accomplishment for any city. But this is not enough. The city’s Eco-Metropole vision statement sets the goal of 50% of trips from home to work by bicycle by the year 2015 (City of Copenhagen, 2007). This increase in bicycling would translate into a sizeable further reduction in carbon emissions, an estimated 80,000 fewer tonnes of carbon as a result of reduced car travel. The vision statement also aims to reduce accidents, specifically lowering the number of seriously injured cyclists by half by the year 2015. Copenhagen has also been a global pioneer in the development of City Bikes (a public bike system). The Copenhagen City Bikes consists of 2,500 free public bicycles available throughout the city centre. They employ a clip system similar to shopping carts, requiring insertion of a 20 kroner coin that is returned when the bike is brought back. The system is partly paid for by advertising on the wheels and frame, and the programme also provides jobs for the unemployed (see Beatley 2000). Copenhagen City Bikes was recently awarded first prize at the World Travel Market (an international travel fair), in the category ‘Best Low-Carbon Transport & Technology.’(Copenhagen Capacity, 2008) Nor is that honour the end of the story. The latest chapter is the Green Cycle Routes initiative, the am of which is to install new bike corridors through and alongside parks and green areas in the city. These are especially attractive for residents interested in commuting but wanting to be away from city car traffic. When complete, the Green Cycle Routes system will consist of 21 routes, covering 110km (Bruel, forthcoming). Already some 37km have been are open, see Figure 1 on the next page.
Figure 1: Green Cycle Routes. Photo Tim Beatley
Over the years, the city has been shifting space away from cars and towards bicycles and pedestrians. In the 1960s, Copenhagen began to pedestrianise its historic core, beginning with the StrĂ¸get, the most important city-centre street (see Figure 2, next page). Copenhagen adopted a policy of converting 2-3% of downtown parking space to pedestrian space each year, and this has gradually made a profound difference in creating essentially a walking central city. Plazas and fountains and pedestrian spaces have now replaced many spaces that were previously devoted to carparking. By 2002 this resulted in 100,000 square metres of car-free streets and squares (Gehl and Gemzoe, 2006). One especially dramatic and emblematic example was the renovation of the cityâ€™s Town Hall Square in 1996. Formerly bisected by a road, the square was converted to a lively pedestrian zone, and today is an important public gathering area. Jan Gehl, Danish pedestrian researcher and guru, has been studying this transformation and applying ideas learned in Copenhagen to many other cities in the world.
Figure 2: Copenhagen’s pedestrianised centre. Photo Tim Beatley
Already boasting an extensive network of parks and greenspaces, Copenhagen adopted an ambitious parks policy in 2003 (see Gehl and Gemzoe, 2004 and 2006). A goal of the Climate Action Plan (see below) is that 90% of the city’s population should be located within a 15 minute walk of a park, so the plan includes the development of some 14 new pocket parks. Another goal in Copenhagen is to expand the opportunities for safe swimming along its harbour and shorelines. Improvement in water quality has been so great that the city has already been able to open several places for public bathing in the harbour. Public policy has actually encouraged changes in citizens’ behaviour. Copenhageners have discovered outdoor café culture, and this appears to be getting stronger all the time. The season for outdoor eating (and strolling) extends each year, so that it is now common to be offered a blanket along with your menu when you sit down at a Copenhagen outdoor restaurant. In pursuit of its goal to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital city by 2025, with a 20% reduction in carbon emissions by 2015, Copenhagen has prepared a Climate Plan that identifies 50 specific projects that the city will undertake. Table 3 on the next page presents some of these key initiatives and policy sectors, and the estimated extent of the CO2 reductions that should result. On the right of the graphic are the six projects that have been identified as ‘lighthouse projects’ because they are important and will be highly visible. They range from development of new city-funded wind projects, to support for electric and hydrogen vehicles and the undertaking of energy retro-fits to city schools. For more details of this plan, see City of Copenhagen, 2009a.
Table 3 Copenhagenâ€™s Climate Plan for Achieving Carbon Neutrality
Source: City of Copenhagen, 2009b. For more details, see City of Copenhagen 2009a (see references)
LOW-CARBON AND RENEWABLE ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES Already well known for its sustainable planning and low-carbon initiatives, Copenhagen has also supported a range of low and renewable energy technologies. Most notable are its commitments to district heating and cooling, combined heat and power (CHP) production, waste-to-energy systems and wind energy generation, and to the development of promising new sources of energy such as geothermal. These are each briefly described below. District heating and cooling District heating and cooling systems connect all the residents and businesses in a particular district with a system of underground pipes, which enables them to draw hot (and sometimes cool) water for heating (and cooling) systems from one central production unit. A municipal district heating system delivers hot water (or sometimes steam) in a network of pipes connected to homes and businesses. Hot water goes out, cooler water returns to be re-heated. Increasingly the heat used to do this is supplied in the form of co-generation, or combined heat and power (CHP) plants. The waste heat from the production of electricity is used for the district heating system, and as a result, the efficiency of this form of production is usually very high (up to 90%) when compared with conventional electricity production. In the case of Copenhagen, the city employs an extensive district heating grid, powered by a combination of biomass, municipal waste, natural gas and other fuels,
increasingly through CHP. For a good history of the Copenhagen district heating system, see VEKS, 2006. Copenhagen benefits from one of the most extensive district heating systems in Europe, providing some 97% of the cityâ€™s heating needs. The district heating system supplies heat to 275,000 households and consists of 54km of distribution line, maintained and operated by CTR (Centralkommunernes Transmissionsselskab I/S, or Metropolitan Copenhagen Heating Transmission). Five municipalities joined together to create CTR in 1984. A sister agency, VEKS (Vestegnens Kraftvarmeselskab I/S), operates in the western portions of the metropolitan area. The CTR district heating system takes heat from four combined heat and power stations, three waste-to-energy plants, and fourteen peak load boilers (CTR, undated). As well, the system consists of 26 heat exchangers and three booster pumps. Most of the heat is purchased by CTR from the larger CHP plants. The water heated through waste energy can in normal operations reach temperatures of more than 100 degrees C (212 degrees F). In the late 1990s, CTR also began providing district cooling, utilising absorption chillers (see Foged and Skov, 1999). Figure 3 below presents a comprehensive map of the district heating system for the entire metro area (including the portions operated by CTR and VEKS).
Source: VEKS, found at www.veks.dk
Figure 3: Map of the Copenhagen district heating system
Throughout Denmark the share of district heat provided through combined heat and power production has gradually been rising since 1980 to more than 80% today. The national share of electricity produced through CHP has similarly risen, from 18% in
1980 to 53% today (Energistyrelsen, 2009). The development of district heating has been supported in several ways, including through regulation and financial incentives. The 1979 Heat Supply Act requires all new and existing buildings over a certain size to connect to the system. The economic savings and environmental benefits of district heating are considerable. It is estimated that the system saves some 665,000 tonnes of carbon from being emitted. Energy consumption per square metre has been halved since the 1970s, mostly as a result of the expansion of district heating. Waste-to-energy Waste-to-energy systems burn waste materials to create energy in the form of electricity or heat. Scandinavian nations, including Denmark, have long relied upon waste-to-energy plants as a significant strategy both for dealing with solid and municipal waste and for generating energy. Waste incineration constitutes an essential element of the heat production for the city’s district heating system. As Wulff and Dyrelund (2008) observe, there are several key climate-related advantages of waste-to-energy plants: they reduce the amount of uncaptured methane emissions from landfill, the heat generated replaces CO2 emissions from other heating sources, and combined heating and power production can significantly curtail such emissions. Copenhagen’s waste-to-energy plants represent a different approach to the disposal of solid and municipal waste than that found in the US, the UK and elsewhere in the world. Only about 3% of the city’s municipal and solid waste ends up in a landfill. About 39% of the wastestream is burned to produce energy in one of the city’s three waste-to-energy plants. The rest is recycled (see www. sustainablecities.dk). The Amagerforbraending plant, the largest of these plants, produces sufficient heat and electricity for some 140,000 homes. To quote Copenhagen’s own 2007 vision statement, Eco-Metropole, “Since the 1990s we have had one of the world’s best waste management systems. Today, we reuse about 90% of all building waste and incinerate about 75% of household waste. The energy from burning waste materials is used for electricity and district heating. This system is now being copied worldwide copied.”(City of Copenhagen, 2007, p.4) Biomass and geothermal technologies Biomass may be defined as plant materials and animal waste when used as a renewable energy source. Geothermal power is power generated by extraction of heat stored in the earth itself. Copenhagen, and Denmark more generally, have significant biomass and geothermal energy resources, which they are only just beginning to plan how to use. Biomass is a commonly used fuel for combined heat and power stations, usually in
the form of straw, wood chips and wood pellets. This represents another important renewable resource, besides being a source of income for farmers in the region. Full-scale development of geothermal energy remains years away but important studies and early pilot plants demonstrate its great potential. There are currently two plants operating in Denmark. The first, developed by the DONG energy company, is located in Thisted and went into operation in 1988. It is estimated to produce sufficient energy to heat 2,500 single-family homes (DONG, 2004). Five energy companies, including DONG, partnered to develop and build the second geothermal plant at the Amager power station in Copenhagen. To do this they formed the Metropolitan Geothermal Alliance (HGS). The plant opened in 2004 and provides heat sufficient for 5,800 homes, fed into the district heating system. The plant is designed to produce 14MW of heat annually, extracted from water at 73 degrees C, at a depth of 2.7km. This extracted heat serves to reduce CO2 emissions by 10,000 tonnes per year (Mahler and Magtengaard, 2005).
Source: DONG Energy
Figure 4: Geothermal energy in Copenhagen
The Climate Action Plan proposes substantial development of the cityâ€™s geothermal resources, specifically a new plant that would increase geothermal production by a reported 600% (Altdotenergy.com, 2009). It is anticipated that geothermal resources a few kilometres below ground could eventually provide half the heat needed for the district heating system. Copenhagen and Denmark generally are well-suited to take advantage of enhanced geothermal energy systems that send water deep below the surface to be heated, then extract it and return it again when cooled (see Figure 4 above). It is clear that the geology of Denmark, including metropolitan Copenhagen, contains tremendous geothermal resources that can and should be tapped. A recent geothermal survey concludes that â€œCopenhagen has enough hot water to fulfil all the heating requirements of the eastern Zealand district for thousands of years. The survey reports that the geothermal reserves under the city contain some
70 times more energy than required by Denmark to fulfil its heating, electricity and transportation needsâ€?. (Quoted in Altdotenergy, 2009) Wind energy Wind energy is derived from the movement of wind across the Earthâ€™s surface, harnessed by wind turbines to provide electricity. Denmark has been a global leader in its commitment to wind energy. Wind projects can be found throughout the country but one of the most striking is the Middlegrunden wind farm just offshore from Copenhagenâ€™s city centre. The project consists of 20 2MW turbines sited in an arc following the line of the historic harbour fortifications. Producing 40MW of power, the turbines began operation in May 2001. Their location was the result of an extensive visual impact assessment and a public consultation process. They are now a dramatic landmark and together they produce about 4% of the electricity needs of the city. One interesting aspect of the Middelgrunden project is that ten of the turbines are owned by a cooperative in which citizens can buy shares. This arrangement provides a level of public involvement in such renewable energy projects. Some 8,500 individuals have purchased shares, at a rate of return of between 6-10% for the first six years of operation (Copenhagen Environmental Capital, 2003). Nor is this an unusual arrangement: an estimated 150,000 Danish families have invested in similar wind projects (Larsen et al, 2005).
Figure 5: The Middlegrunden wind turbines in Copenhagen harbour. Photo Tim Beatley.
Solar power Solar power is derived from the sun’s radiation, harnessed by means of photovoltaic cells for conversion into electricity. In Copenhagen solar power generation is a less-developed sector than wind, wasteto-energy and other energy technologies, and there are many other cities, such as Freiburg in Germany, that have stronger claims to leadership in this area. Nevertheless, there are efforts to promote solar power, and over the next few years there will be a number of exemplar buildings in Copenhagen that will creatively incorporate solar systems into their design. The main sponsor of solar power in the city has been an organisation called Solar City Copenhagen. Founded in 2004 as a joint project between the City of Copenhagen, the Danish Energy Agency and Copenhagen Energy, its objective is to “establish Copenhagen as a demonstration and development centre for solar energy systems and energy optimisation”. (Solar City Copenhagen, undated) This organisation has developed an action plan and undertaken a number of activities in Copenhagen promoting solar power, including the convening of workshops and conferences, support for pilot projects and the awarding of an annual Solar Award. The most recent award (2007) went to the Carlsberg Neighbourhood Project, an innovative effort to reconfigure a former brewery as a sustainable development with solar energy as a key element. THE FOOD SUPPLY Food supply is often an overlooked element of the overall carbon footprint of a city. Today, what we eat travels a great distance. For the US, a frequently-cited statistic is that on average food is shipped 1,500 miles from where it is grown to where it is eaten (see Pollan 2006). In addition, non-organic industrial food production is generally energy and fossil-fuel intensive in its use of fertilisers, pesticides, and mechanised production. For Copenhagen, a sustainable food supply is clearly on the environmental agenda. In particular, the city has adopted a policy of purchasing organic food for its municipal facilities, including nursing homes, schools and daycare centres. It is estimated that already more than 80% of the food served at the daycare centres is organic. Moreover, it is estimated that over 50% of the food served in the city’s institutions and buildings is organic, a figure that probably exceeds that of any other city in the world (City of Copenhagen 2008). Denmark has long been a leader in consumption of organic food, and in 2009 was declared “organic country of the year” at the BioFach World Organic Trade Fair. Copenhagen’s Climate Action Plan and the Eco-Metropole Vision for 2015 set an even more ambitious goal of 90% organic food in public institutions, together with a minimum of 20% consumption of organic food in the city overall (City of Copenhagen 2007, 2008). One reason the city can promote organic and sustainable foods
effectively is the extent of government involvement in running establishments such as daycare centres that elsewhere may be mainly run by the private sector. This official support has helped foster a culture of interest in organic and sustainable food in the city. There are now organic grocers, hotels that serve only organic food and organic food restaurants. One of these, the restaurant BioMio, has received considerable international media attention. Not only does it serve nothing but organic food (at affordable prices) but it has made an effort to extend sustainability principles to other aspects of its operation. For example, they wear organic cotton uniforms, have induction ventilators that recycle kitchen heat, practice water conservation and use non-toxic hand soap (McGrane, 2009; see biomio.dk). LOW ENERGY BUILDING Copenhagenâ€™s long-standing interest in low energy building led to the adoption in 1998 of a comprehensive set of guidelines for sustainable urban renewal. These guidelines are mandatory for any public or publicly-funded project but optional for private developers. One early application of the guidelines was the (already mentioned) refurbishment of a late 1800s housing block called Hedebygade, located in the Vesterbro district of the city. Included were some interesting and visually dramatic energy-related elements, such as solar mirrors/prisms that track the sun and send daylight deep into the buildings, green courtyards, green kitchen designs and new waste management and recycling systems. Another public project that not only demonstrates but goes beyond the guidelines is an ecological daycare centre. Built in 2002, the Stenurten (stonecrop) centre makes use of daylight, natural ventilation and natural building materials. Its most dramatic feature is its sloping glass faĂ§ade, which creates a climate zone that harvests sunlight and solar energy while facilitating natural ventilation. Copenhagen has now adopted several revised versions of the sustainable building standards, most recently in 2006 (see City of Copenhagen, 2006). These lay down a set of minimum and mandatory requirements for newly-constructed or renovated public or public-subsidised structures (City of Copenhagen, 2006, p.8). There are also recommended measures that are not binding. The standards address a comprehensive set of environmental and sustainability issues, including energy and water consumption, choice of materials and townscape and green spaces. One important element in the cityâ€™s green building efforts has been the emphasis on the recycling of building construction materials and waste. Already an estimated 90% of construction waste in the city is recycled, one of the highest rates in the world. Copenhagen has become a centre for sustainable building design, and there are a number of cutting-edge buildings in progress. One distinctive one designed to be carbon-neutral is the so-called Green Lighthouse at the University of Copenhagen. Designed by architects Christensen, its combination of passive solar design, natural
ventilation and low-energy lighting are estimated to result in 80% less energy consumption than a typical building of its size (950 square metres) (Steffen, 2008). Another remarkable example, planned but not yet constructed, is the Steven Holldesigned LM project. This consists of two high-rise structures covered in photovoltaic panels, linked in dramatic fashion by a pedestrian bridge containing a series of micro wind turbines. Copenhagen has also been an innovator when it comes to assessing and monitoring the environmental effects of its own agencies and operations. It has done this for many years through what it calls ‘Green Accounts’. Green Accounts are estimates of such things as energy use, CO2 emissions and waste generated by city departments and buildings. Historically, one set of Green Accounts was produced for the municipal government and another for the public at large. The former was seen as an opportunity for city departments to identify ways to reduce environmental impacts and set a positive example for the private sector. The latter was seen as a chance to educate the general public about the environmental impact of housing, transport and various lifestyle choices. The most recent Green Accounts (2008) combine the government and public figures into a single document (City of Copenhagen, 2008). This extremely thorough and comprehensive report is itself a model for other cities for the tracking and monitoring of sustainability progress. Moreover, the report makes a special effort to evaluate progress towards meeting the goals laid out in the Eco-Metropole vision statement. It shows that, while the city has been highly successful in many areas, much remains to be done. In particular there are serious concerns about noise, air pollution and car traffic. Reports such as these demonstrate the importance of transparency and having clear targets and benchmarks against which progress can be judged. CONCLUSION Few cities in the world have done and are doing as much as Copenhagen to forge a low carbon future. What is distinctive about Copenhagen is the multi-faceted approach taken: the combination of regional land use planning, compact urban form, investments in rail and transit, commitments to walkability and bicycle mobility, renewable energy systems, district heating, and sustainable building design. This approach has resulted in a comparatively low per-capita carbon emissions rate for Copenhageners compared to the inhabitants of many other cities. The current per capita rate for residents of Copenhagen is estimated at about 4.9 metric tonnes, a significant reduction compared to 1990 figures. While some European cities, such as Barcelona, have achieved a lower rate, this figure is notably smaller than those for American cities. And as we have seen, Copenhagen has declared its determination to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital city by 2025 — setting an even more ambitious target for the future. Copenhagen is deservedly a model and an inspiration for cities around the world. For the Danish capital shows the range of ideas and programmes possible and
demonstrates that the key to finding a low carbon future does not consists of a silver bullet or magic solution but the adoption of as great a variety of sustainability strategies as possible.
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by Timothy Beatley