Sunday, April 21, 2013

Copenhagen’s Carbon Emission Battle

Realizing that 70% of the world’s carbon emissions and two-thirds of the world’s energy consumption happens within cities around the world, Copenhagen has decided to become a leader in carbon emission reduction.

The city has set an ambitious goal to be completely carbon neutral by 2025. To achieve this goal, large investments in wind farms and more energy efficient heating systems are being made city-wide. The aspect of carbon emission reduction, however, that the city has made its largest strides and continues to improve on is its transportation sector. In addition to the goal to have 50% of the city’s commuter’s travel by bicycle by 2015, massive investments in public transit infrastructure are being made for those who don’t have an interest in cycling as a means for commuting. The new “city circle line” expansion of Copenhagen’s subway line, the Metro, will put 85% of Copenhagen residents within 650 yards of a Metro stop by 2018 when it is completed.

What makes the ambitious carbon neutral goal even more challenging is the expected population growth of 100,000 by 2025 within the city. However the $442 million Climate Plan that encompasses the Metro and cycling infrastructure expansions will work hard to combat the negative carbon impacts of population growth. The majority of the funds will focus on energy reduction and clean energy production rather than transportation, since Copenhagen has much more room for improvement in those other sectors. This will include investing in biogas, bioethanol, renewable sourced electricity, and hydrogen power for heavy trucks and freight to run on. A goal to have 40% of heavy trucks run on carbon-free energy has been set for 2025 as well. Bus fleets within the city are also being converted to run on biogas.

What is striking about Copenhagen’s plans to target climate change and carbon emissions is the lack of consumer-oriented regulations that will be put in place. While most governments quickly look to policy implementation to regulate behavior to reduce emissions, Copenhagen is taking the approach of investing in cleaner and more environmentally-friendly energy and transportation, hoping that consumers will choose these cleaner options if they are provided. This approach may be more affective in Copenhagen than it would be in most US cities due to the Danish government’s influence on the energy sector (since most energy production is government owned and run instead of done privately like in the US) and a fundamental difference in cultural views and values in terms of the environment by average citizens in Copenhagen.

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