Copenhagen, a city that was once industrial and polluted like most other urban cities of today, now aims to become net carbon neutral city by 2025. It has set an example for other modern cities, showing that even with a population of 600,,000 people, it is possible to take such initiatives. From changing how people get around in the city to how they heat their homes and what they do with their trash, the city has been planning to take several issues into consideration.
It has already reduced emissions by 42 percent from the levels in 2005, principally, by moving away from fossil fuels to generate heat and electricity. A new metro line, which is scheduled to open this year, will also put the majority of the city’s residents within 650 meters of a station. Bicycle paths are already three lanes wide on busy routes for the 43 percent of Copenhageners who commute to work and school by bike.
Wind is being used to help generate electricity for the city. It has invested a great amount in wind turbines. For heating buildings, garbage is being burnt in a new high-tech incinerator. Also, every apartment building now has eight separate recycling bins. Copenhagen intends to sell units of renewable energy for every unit of fossil fuels that it consumes. Some of the city’s power plants have switched from coal to wood pellets. By helping the city cut down emissions, this has actually proved to be carbon neutral — if more trees can be planted in place of those that are cut down. But there is a catch: burning wood produces emissions. A lawsuit had argued that wood pellets should not be considered renewable energy.
Copenhagen has recently opened a $660 million incinerator that is nearly 85 meters tall and resembles a half-built pyramid with a tall stack. Almost every day, 300 trucks carry garbage to be put into its huge furnace. This too has carbon footprints. However, chief engineer Peter Blinksbjerg said that instead of going into a landfill it is better that the garbage is being made into something useful that can provide heat during the city’s extreme and harsh winters.
The efforts are quite noticeable. Once there were factories in narrow streets and ships in the oil-stained harbor. Electricity was provided by coal-fired power plants and the air was filled with smog. This led to many city dwellers to move to the cleaner air suburbs. But the city is moving in a different direction where the air will be less polluted and breathable from new parks being created to ponds to collect water before it can be drained out. New dikes are now present in the harbor and a proposal has also been put forward to build an island in the northeast to block storm surges.
But Copenhagen’s goal to be carbon neutral faces an obstacle that is common across the world — a divide between the interests of people who live in cities and those who stay outside the city. However, the way the city had been witnessing the impact of climate change in the rains becoming more intense and the rising sea level, an urgent step had to be taken if things were to be brought under control.