Carbon Neutrality and Sustainable Smart City Solution of Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen is a global leader against the climate change, and the city has developed and implemented highly effective sustainable development strategies. In 2022, Copenhagen’s CO2 emissions have been reduced by 80 percent compared to 2009, and has become an excellent example of green environmental protection. Although affected by the recent fluctuations in the energy environment, the city has recently given up its goal of achieving full carbon neutrality by 2025. However, more efficient solutions to the problem of carbon production and capture have been introduced. Copenhagen has a richer and more humane environment smart city design, once again guarantees the direction to became the most sustainable city.

Copenhagen is recognised as one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the world. As a result of its commitment to high environmental standards, Copenhagen has been praised for its green economy, ranked as the top green city for the second time in the 2014 Global Green Economy Index (GGEI). The City of Copenhagen has set itself ambitious goals for the city’s social, economic and environmental development.

Copenhagen is to be carbon neutral as the first capital in the world. To this end, the municipal government has formulated a series of action plans, including strong development of green and renewable energy such as wind energy, encouraging citizens to choose green travel and promoting green buildings and other 50 specific projects. Copenhagen will achieve these goals through a transition of energy supply, building retrofits, waste management, public infrastructure and mobility, as well as other key initiatives to support the transition on both a short-term and long-term basis.

Commercial and residential buildings are to reduce electricity consumption by 20 percent and 10 percent respectively, and total heat consumption is to fall by 20 percent by 2025. Renewable energy features such as solar panels are becoming increasingly common in the newest buildings in Copenhagen. District heating will be carbon-neutral by 2025, by waste incineration and biomass. New buildings must now be constructed according to Low Energy Class ratings and in 2020 near net-zero energy buildings. By 2025, 75% of trips should be made on foot, by bike, or by using public transit. The city plans that 20–30% of cars will run on electricity or biofuel by 2025.

Becoming carbon neutral, Copenhagen will gradually switch to renewable energy sources, with the district heating system using even more heat generated from waste-to-energy plants. Cooling networks will be based mostly on seawater abstraction. Through decades of extraordinary and sustained efforts, Denmark has built a world-class green energy system that delivers a cleaner everyday life and more green energy.

The city’s urban planning authorities continue to take full account of these priorities. Special attention is given both to climate issues and efforts to ensure maximum application of low-energy standards. Priorities include sustainable drainage systems, recycling rainwater, green roofs and efficient waste management solutions. In city planning, streets and squares are to be designed to encourage cycling and walking rather than driving.

Further, the city administration is working with smart city initiatives to improve how data and technology can be used to implement new solutions that support the transition toward a carbon-neutral economy. These solutions support operations covered by the city administration to improve e.g. public health, district heating, urban mobility and waste management systems. Smart city operations in Copenhagen are maintained by Copenhagen Solutions Lab, the city’s official smart-city development unit under the Technical and Environmental Administration.

Environmental friendly city
Copenhagen is recognized as one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the world. Denmark was a society based on agriculture and fishing, and Danes still feel closely tied to the land and the water around them. This respect for nature is why Denmark is a pioneer in promoting sustainability. Sustainability is a holistic approach that includes renewable energy, water management, waste recycling, and green transportation including the bicycling culture.

Much of Copenhagen’s environmental success can be attributed to a strong municipal policy combined with a sensible national policy. It is one of the world’s most expensive cities, it is also one of the most livable with its public transport, cycling facilities and environmental initiatives. Until around 2025, four major expansion areas are planned in the Municipality of Copenhagen, the focus is on conservation and hollow filling with either new buildings or green areas.

As a result of its commitment to high environmental standards, Copenhagen has been praised for its green economy, ranked as the top green city for the second time in the 2014 Global Green Economy Index (GGEI). In 2001 a large offshore wind farm was built just off the coast of Copenhagen at Middelgrunden. It produces about 4% of the city’s energy. Years of substantial investment in sewage treatment have improved water quality in the harbour to an extent that the inner harbour can be used for swimming with facilities at a number of locations.

For a number of years, Copenhagen has ranked high in international quality of life surveys. Its stable economy along with its educational provision and level of social security make it attractive to locals as well as visitors. As a reward for a long-term effort within holistic environmental planning, Copenhagen Municipality received the European Environmental Management Award in 2006, and the entire city of Copenhagen was named Europe’s greenest city in 2009 in The Economist. Recent articles also mention Copenhagen as the greenest city; Among other things, Culture Trip (2020), and Travel Earth (2020).

As “most livable city” in 2013, its open spaces, increasing activity on the streets, urban planning for the benefit of cyclists and pedestrians, and for residents urban life-encouraging features with the awakening of community, culture and cuisine were designated. Other highly ranked for Copenhagen such as its business environment, accessibility, restaurants and environmental planning.

Danish design has been an international standard-bearer since the 1950s, and always-evolving industries like healthcare and pharmaceuticals also play a substantial role in the Danish economy. The Copenhagen area is home to a handful of strong business clusters in the areas of biotech, cleantech, IT and shipping. Within cleantech/environmental technology, it is the newly founded Copenhagen Cleantech Cluster. These days, Danish innovators are leaders when it comes to sustainability and green living.

After a great deal of effort to improve the water quality in the harbour, i.a. with the establishment of purification plants and overflow basins, you can now swim in the harbour, and a swimming competition is organized in the canal around Christiansborg every year. Likewise, several harbor baths have been established in the inner harbor. In addition to improving the water quality in the harbour, work has also been done to improve the water quality in the city’s lakes. Lake Gentofte Sø is one of the cleanest lakes in the region, among other things, rare orchids are found in the wetland.

From 2009-2022, Copenhagen reduced CO2 emissions by 80%. To achieve the remaining 20% reduction, the city hoped to use carbon capture and storage (CCS). In 2022, the state indicated that the proposed Amager Resource Centre (ARC) incinerator would not qualify for state financial aid under equity capital requirements of the state’s CCS funding program. Copenhagen has stated that it still hopes to achieve a 100% reduction in carbon emissions, but will not be able to do so by 2025.

Net zero principles
Copenhagen aims to be carbon-neutral by 2025. Although the date for the realization of this plan has been delayed, it has not affected the determination of the city to achieve the goal. Carbon neutrality is a state of net-zero carbon dioxide emissions. This can be achieved by balancing emissions of carbon dioxide with its removal or by eliminating emissions from society. Carbon Net Zero is a broader and more comprehensive commitment to decarbonization and climate action, moving beyond carbon neutrality by including more activities under the scope of indirect emissions, including a science-based target on emissions reduction.

Net zero is a scientific concept that can be defined in terms of measurable targets. It can provide a frame of reference for understanding and assessing the impact of actions to address climate change. To be used as a framework for climate action, it must be operationalised and measured as part of the ongoing activities of social, political and economic systems. The goal of net zero is to achieve a state of balance that can be maintained over multiple decades to centuries.

Cities are in a critical position to address climate issues effectively, which must be followed up through effective mechanisms for governance, monitoring, accountability and reporting. Long-term goals must be translated into practical near-term actions, with detailed plans and methods for establishing baselines, measuring outcomes and assessing impacts.

Urban development focused on lowering carbon is seen as an inevitable trend for sustainability in urban spaces. Zero-carbon city is one that generates as much or more carbon-free sustainable energy as it uses, that reduces its carbon footprint to a minimum by using renewable energy sources; reducing all types of carbon emissions through efficient urban design, technology use and lifestyle changes; and balancing any remaining emissions through carbon sequestration.

Since the supply chains of a city stretch far beyond its borders, modern city attempting to achieve net-zero status needs to assess seven key provisioning systems, for energy, transportation-communications, food, construction materials, water, green infrastructure, and waste-management. Strategies for reaching net zero include developing renewable energy supplies, reducing energy and resource use through better urban design and lifestyle changes, reducing waste, and creating green spaces and carbon sinks to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Approaches to sustainable urban planning of zero carbon cities increasingly emphasize the use of locally sourced food, energy, and renewable resources.

There are strong similarities between zero carbon cities and eco-cities. Discussions of eco-cities tend to focus more broadly on social and environmental issues, with less emphasis on carbon monitoring and the necessity of reaching net zero energy balance. Many of the principles proposed for developing eco-cities are also relevant to net zero cities, including revising land use priorities to create sustainable mixed-use communities; revising transportation priorities to favor foot, bicycle, cart and public transit over automobiles; increasing environmental awareness; supporting local agriculture and community gardens; and promoting recycling and resource conservation.

Comprehensive strategies
Achieving carbon neutrality is a very ambitious goal, which cannot be achieved simply by relying on a few simple solidification strategies. Instead, it is necessary to develop a variety of sustainable countermeasures for the entire social organism, with diverse and flexible comprehensive strategies, as well as To achieve green and low-carbon in all aspects of production and life.

The transition to a green economy in Copenhagen cannot happen in short term or through the efforts of each individual stakeholders alone. Therefore, Copenhagen is collaborating with companies and knowledge institutions to find new solutions to specific challenges. The City of Copenhagen is also striving to increase documentation of its green efforts and to target new initiatives based on available data and evidence.

Copenhagen’s carbon neutral strategy includes reducing carbon emissions, using clean energy as much as possible, and reducing consumption in production and living processes through efficient planning of smart cities. Ending carbon emissions by moving towards energy sources and industry processes that produce no greenhouse gases, shifting towards the use of renewable energy such as wind, geothermal, and solar power, thereby transitioning to a zero-carbon economy.

Recently, the city of Copenhagen has witnessed the establishment of more carbon capture factories. Carbon capture refers to capturing carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere through various technical means, compressing it and storing it underground. Balancing remaining carbon dioxide emissions with carbon offsets is the process of reducing or avoiding greenhouse gas emissions or removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to make up for emissions elsewhere. If the total greenhouse gases emitted is equal to the total amount avoided or removed, then the two effects cancel each other out and the net emissions are ‘neutral’.

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Sustainable Smart City
Designing sustainable environments should be a comprehensive process that balances social, cultural, environmental, economic, and political aspects. Urban water management, waste handling, electricity, heating and cooling, urban mobility, public and private buildings, climate adaptation, resiliency, green and blue areas and air pollution are all vital elements to consider in developing liveable cities of tomorrow. However, rather than thinking of these aspects independently, substantial economic and environmental gains can be made by adopting a more integrated and holistic approach to urban planning.

In 2012 Copenhagen, Denmark created the CPH2025 Climate Plan with the target of becoming the first carbon-neutral capital by 2025 and for Denmark to be entirely carbon-neutral by 2050. The city has shifted energy and heating systems to use wind, solar and biomass for heating and sea water for cooling; improved transit by using electric cars and adding bicycle paths, and renovated buildings to be more energy efficient.

Urban areas involve essential infrastructure for energy, transport, water, food, shelter, construction, public spaces, and waste management. Key factors in city planning include density, land use mix, connectivity, and accessibility. Transforming cities to achieve net zero sustainability means rethinking both supply-side issues and demand-side issues. To achieve net zero, Copenhagen collectively reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, achieving net zero sustainability also means considering sources and production of materials, and ensuring that what comes into the city travels via zero-emission transport.

The transition to sustainable cities depends on social, cultural, economic, and climatic factors. In the fast-growing cities of developing economies, basic needs such as energy, water, and mobility should be met sustainably, while resources are managed effectively. In cities located in more developed economies, smart approaches are needed to ensure that cities are optimised for economic activity, energy consumption and environmental impact.

Regardless of a city’s particular state of development, ensuring ‘the good life’ for urban citizens should be a guiding principle. To meet the challenges of urbanisation, we need to take a holistic approach when developing urban areas and make the necessary investments. To accelerate the transition to inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and communities, with the solutions to creating the smart, green and liveable cities.

To achieve the goal of holistic urban development, partnerships and interdisciplinary collaboration between various partners are required. Danish cities, both big and small, have applied unique public-private partnership models for solving many of their challenges. Known as the Copenhagen model, it is characterised by the integration of design and engineering, relying on a close ongoing dialogue between the City and its private partners. This takes place from the initial phase of identifying issues to the inception of solutions, implementation as well as maintenance. Citizens and educational institutions are often engaged as well, forming Triple Helix (university-industry-government) and Quadruple Helix (university-industry-government-citizens) partnerships.

Clean Energy
Copenhagen’s confidence in achieving carbon neutrality comes from its rich green energy mix. Denmark loves clean, renewable energy. The wind production per capita exceeds that of any other OECD country. Moreover, bioenergy plays an important role in the Danish energy system. The development of a net-zero carbon electric grid can become the basis for transitioning key urban activities such as transportation, heating, and cooking from fossil fuels to zero-carbon electricity.

To become a zero-carbon city, renewable energy must supersede other non-renewable energy sources and become the sole source of energy, so a zero-carbon city is a renewable-energy-economy city. The electricity sector relies mainly on renewable energy. 80% of the electricity produced in the country came from renewables: 57% from wind power, 20% from biomass and other combustible renewables, and 3% from solar power.

Wind energy is well-established in Denmark, which long ago decided to put the Danish climate’s constant breezes and blusters to practical use. Now Denmark produces almost twice as much wind energy per capita as the runner-up among industrialised countries in the OECD. In 2021, Denmark inaugurated Scandinavia’s biggest wind farm. “Kriegers Flak” has a total capacity to cover electricity consumption of approximately 600,000 Danish households. The wind farm is located 15 to 40 kilometers off the Danish coast in a 132 km2 area in the Baltic Sea and is expected to increase the Danish annual electricity production from wind turbines by approximately 16 per cent.

Denmark began looking into the possibilities of wind energy after the oil crisis of 1973. A nascent wind turbine industry emerged as a spin-off of the manufacturing of agricultural machinery, and the first commercial wind turbine was erected in 1979. The success of onshore wind power inspired the development of offshore wind energy. In 2002, the world’s then-largest offshore wind farm, Horns Reef 1, was established in the North Sea about 14-20 kilometres off the coast of Jutland.

In 2009 and 2019, two more offshore wind farms were inaugurated near Horns Reef 1. The newest of them, Horns Reef 3, is Denmark’s largest offshore wind farm and will increase the Danish electricity generation from wind by around 12 per cent. With a total capacity of 407 megawatt, the 49 wind turbines of Horns Reef 3 will cover the annual electricity consumption of approximately 425,000 Danish households. In 2019, wind turbine production exceeded the Danes’ electricity demand.

The world’s top innovators in wind energy include the Danish company Vestas and Siemens Gamesa, which has Danish roots. Together these two companies had a share of almost a third of global wind turbine installations in 2018, according to GlobalData (preliminary results). MHI Vestas — a joint venture between Vestas and the Japanese company Mitsubishi Heavy Industries — currently produces the world’s most powerful serially-produced turbine, the 9.5 MW.

There is a strong focus on securing sustainable biomass in Denmark. More than two-thirds of Denmark’s renewable energy comes from bioenergy, which is energy stored in organic material or biomass. Agriculture is big business in Denmark, and it indirectly helps provide energy too, with manure, animal fats, and straw used as the basis for biogas and liquid biofuels.

Many Danish power plants are switching from fossil fuels to biomass (wood pellets, wood chips, or straw). Nearly two-thirds of the Danish households are supplied with district heating (heat networks), where the heat is distributed to citizens as hot water in pipes. Roughly half of the fuel for district heating in Denmark is made up of biomass and other sources of renewable energy.

One of the biggest challenges in the world today in relation to climate change is the growing demand for energy globally. This makes it even more crucial to find sustainable alternatives to fossil energy and there’s an increasing interest in Danish solutions such as wind power technology. Denmark has the position and knowledge to help other countries around the world move faster towards a green transition.

Electricity needs are increasingly being met through the development of solar and wind power as energy sources, which are becoming the cheapest forms of power. The shift to solar power, in particular, means that energy can be produced close to its intended use. This is suited to a distributed energy infrastructure in which local areas are connected into a city-wide or region-wide electrical grid. The ability to provide a steady supply of electricity is also being supported by the development of more efficient and cost-effective battery storage technology.

When it comes to transport, good lighting and intelligent traffic signals based on analysis of real-time data will reduce travel time significantly for cyclists and bus passengers. Good urban planning can develop an infrastructure that combines and supports initiatives in multiple areas. For example, the generation of solar power and the provision of recharge hubs near public transit can support the use of electric vehicles for both private and public transit. Another way to support use of electric vehicles might be to integrate EV charging points into lampposts.

Increasingly, city planners are looking to the use of digital technologies to create smarter and more sustainable cities. By gathering large diverse datasets and modelling the impact of possible interventions, planners hope to identify and target key aspects of energy use, air quality, and traffic for improvement. By incorporating smart measurement technology into buildings, lighting, appliances and transportation, systems can better adapt to changing conditions, reduce energy consumption, and improve city services.

Another field in which Denmark is setting the course for sustainability is shipping. Denmark is the sixth biggest shipping nation in the world and the Danish company Maersk Line is the world’s largest container shipping operator, shipping 12 million containers every year. As a major maritime power, Denmark has a responsibility to use its influence to advance shipping globally. As a first step towards having a fully carbon-neutral fleet by 2050, Maersk Line has announced that it will operate the world’s first carbon-neutral cargo vessel by 2023. The plan is to operate the vessel on carbon neutral e-methanol, which is produced by using renewable sources such as biomass and solar energy, or sustainable bio-methanol as soon as possible.

Copenhagen Airport has launched a new climate strategy to future-proof the industry. Danish aviation must be CO2-neutral by 2050. This must be realized by continuing to reduce the CO2 emissions that the airport has control over, i.e. CPH’s energy and fuel consumption and employees’ business trips.

In addition to CPH’s own CO2 lending, the ambition is for the airport to be emission-free in relation to transport to and from the airport in 2030. This must be realized by CPH continuing to invest in solar systems and supporting the green transformation of land transport by strengthening the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles on and outside the airport area. At the same time, climate compensation must be done to a greater extent by supporting carbon-reducing projects in Denmark and other countries.

To be successful in furthering the green transition, Copenhagen are looking into global research and solutions for energy efficiency in buildings as well as solutions for a more circular economy. In particular, Denmark has focused on making buildings more energy-efficient, Danish companies are among the global market leaders when it comes to making buildings efficient, particularly Rockwool (insulation), Velux (windows), Danfoss (heating applications), and Grundfos (careful use of water.)

The energy efficiency of buildings can be assessed and improved in multiple ways that help to reduce carbon emissions. Insulation and energy-efficient windows are commonly used in colder cities. Incorporation of features such as solar panels, green roofs and walls, and heat pumps into new or existing buildings can significantly reduce energy use. New types of materials such as smart glass are being developed to improve the energy efficiency of buildings. The size of buildings has an impact on their energy costs in terms of both construction and use. Types of materials used can vary widely in both their up-front and over-time carbon costs. It is important to carefully consider the up-front embodied emissions of existing materials.

Green infrastructure includes private and public garden areas, parks, trees, and urban agriculture. Green infrastructure mitigates the effects of carbon emissions in multiple ways, by naturally removing and storing carbon dioxide, and by shading and cooling surrounding areas which reduces energy needs for cooling. The development of green space in cities, particularly long-lived trees, is a cost-effective method of carbon sequestration.

Waste management
Wastes can be managed through a variety of ways, including reuse, recycling, storage, treatment, energy recovery, and disposal. “Waste-to-energy” processes through which useful by-products such as energy can be recovered from otherwise unusable sources Technologies for carbon capture and storage are being developed to mitigate emissions from fossil fuel power plants and industrial sources. Smart sewers and trash facilities, water management, and real-time air quality monitoring will also lower the stress in a city with more and more inhabitants.

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