As one of the world’s leading cycling cities, with 43% of its residents commuting to work and school by bicycle, located in a country that was an early adopter of wind power which established its commitment to sustainability, Denmark’s remarkable success in incentivizing wind energy led to it producing 42% of its energy by means of wind power in 2015, Copenhagen seemed a natural candidate to become the first carbon neutrality. The city set itself this ambitious target in 2013 it established itself as a forerunner in the effort to reduce the impact of urban centers and offered a benchmark for other cities to come.

Now, closing in on five years to its deadline, the city is realizing the limitations of what a municipal government can achieve as well as understanding the true challenges of realizing behavioral change among its citizens. Despite ambitious transportation projects such as the construction of a new metro line and innovative means of sorting and disposing of city waste through advanced recycling plans, and heavy investments in wind turbines, the city continues to struggle with transportation-related emissions.

Not only are the municipal governments means of impacting the source of these emissions fairly limited, the ability to impose heavier vehicle taxation belonging to the national government, the city has recognized that the battle to limit private car use is a heavily political one. These efforts are also liable to produce notable rifts between the urban and rural areas of municipalities as the alternative means available to citizens further from the city center are fairly limited.

However, with the population of Copenhagen strongly behind the effort and willing to take steps to alter their own behavior in the interest of reducing emissions, according to a 2018 study, the government’s hopes have not been dimmed and the world stands to learn from their efforts.

Read more about Copenhagen’s efforts to reach carbon neutrality in the New York Times

More on Copenhagen’s 2025 climate plan

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