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A tale of two Danish cities: Towards zero carbon emissions

IANS  |  Sonderborg/Copenhagen (Denmark) 

"I am a big zero", proclaims the badge worn by Peter Rathje, Managing Director of Project Zero A/s, that is working on the mission to make this Danish city carbon neutral by 2029.

"No, I didn't have any issues wearing the badge for the first time or later," Rathje told this visting IANS correspondent.

Project Zero is a public-private partnership in the city of 75,000 souls (It also has 440,000 pigs and 250,000 hens). The ultimate aim is to attract investments, tourists, people to live in the city and also create green jobs.

Project Zero is meant to transit Sonderborg from a farming, industry and knowledge economy to a green business economy.

The carbon neutrality is to be achieved by efficient use of energy with 722,000 tonnes of emissions in 2007 as the baseline mark.

"Project Zero is one of the three lighthouse projects of Sonderborg. The purpose is to make Sonderborg a great place to live and work," Mayor Erik Lauritzen told a group of visiting international journalists.

The other two lighthouse projects are converting the city's harbour front into a residential neighbourhood and converting the city into a tourist destination.

According to Rathje, energy efficiency was the main aim of the project which is being achieved by limiting energy demand through rationale use, sourcing renewable energy for the remaining demand and using fossil fuel, if necessary, as efficiently and cleanly as possible.

"Between 2007 and 2016 the carbon reduction was 35 per cent and now the target is to achieve 50 per cent reduction by 2020. During this period, around 800 jobs were created in construction, energy consulting and green district heating," Rathje explained.

Speaking about the roadmap for achieving the 2020 target, Rathje said energy efficiency would be improved through retrofitting of houses, offices and commercial buildings, as also generating solar power and by setting up biogas plant and onshore wind turbines.

Rathje said two biogas plants are being set up while the public transport buses now run on biogas.

He said several homes have gone for retrofitting at an average investment of 21,000 euros, creating new jobs and also saving energy consumption by 45 per cent per household.

In order to sustain the green focus, children are taught waste is valuable and can be recycled or used in a different form.

On the other hand, Denmark's capital city Copenhagen is targeting to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025 -- four years ahead of Sonderborg.

According to Copenhagen Mayor Morten Kabell, the biggest challenge was asking the Danes to do away with their cars and switch over to public transport and cycles.

"I sold the official car and come to office on an e-bike," he added.

Kabell is one of the seven Mayors of Copenhagen, which has a population of around 600,000.

According to Kabell, using a cycle is a faster way to commute and the city administration has reduced the number of car parking slots to discourage the use of cars and to promote public transport and cycles.

"For distances of five-seven kilometres people here pedal their cycles. We would want that to go up to 10 km. People can also use e-bikes," Kabell said.

A sizable number of Danes in Copenhagen commute to work on cycles. The bicycle lanes are broad and the administration is planning to widen them to avoid gridlocks and also discourage the use of cars.

"Cars occupy space and also transport only one person on average. You have to plan a city where cars can be used. There the people can buy cars and drive," he added.

"We are a growing city. The city is growing by two per cent per annum. The challenge is building infrastructure, schools and other facilities," Kabell said.

Speaking about achieving carbon neutrality by 2025, Kabell said as per the current plans, the city will achieve 92 per cent of the target by that time.

"Working out schemes to achieve the balance eight per cent will not be difficult," he said confidently.

Copenhagen aims to be the first city in the world to become carbon neutral by 2025.

"So far we have achieved 33 per cent of our target. Property owners have been asked to provide for district heating and cooling in their buildings," Kabell said.

The city is benchmarking its emissions against 2005 levels. A biomass power plant is also being built and is expected to be operational in 2020 so that 80 per cent of the city's district heating system will be carbon neutral.

According to Kabell, separation of waste at the household level is in place with the municipality giving containers to segregate the waste so that the organic waste could be used in the biomass plant.

The city's streetlights have been changed to energy efficient LED bulbs and the majority of the garbage trucks run on gas.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan was in Denmark at the invitation of Danfoss A/S. He can be contacted at



(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, October 19 2017. 19:22 IST