Copenhagen 2025 Climate Plan

City, Country

Copenhagen, Denmark


Copenhagen 2025 Climate Plan (City of Copenhagen 2016) is an ambitious strategy to turn Copenhagen into the first carbon neutral City capital in the world. The City aims to show that it is possible to combine growth, development and an enhanced quality of life with lower CO2-emissions. The Plan builds on four pillars: energy consumption, energy production, green mobility and City administration. The Plan is heavily rooted in interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches, as it recognises the crucial role played by local authorities, Copenhageners, universities and businesses to reach the targets set in the Plan.

Initiative's relationship with REFLOW

  • Co-creation design & framework

  • Technical Infrastructure & software

  • Creating & managing circular flows

  • Collaborative governance & urban strategies

  • Capacity building

  • Communication

Period of implementation


Core vision

The topic of environmental sustainability and ‘eco-city’ has largely characterised local policy-making over the years, and the City has been repeatedly awarded and acknowledged at the international level for its eco-credentials. However, the origin of the Plan can be dated back to 2009, when the City hosted the COP15 Summit. The conference played a key role in raising climate change to the highest political level. Building on the COP15’s aftermath - in the first instance, the Copenhagen Accord which settled short and long term goals for reducing global temperature and greenhouse gas emissions -, the City started a participatory process aimed at gathering ideas and inputs for improving the environmental performance of the City, based on four priority areas:

  • Energy consumption

  • Energy production

  • Green mobility

  • City administration

This participatory process led to the identification of 19 overall goals and targets, and 60 initiatives. These have been launched in close collaboration with businesses, utility providers, grassroots organizations and citizens. The CPH 2025 Climate Plan is therefore the result of collaborative efforts of the City of Copenhagen and numerous external players who have all played a critical role in designing and implementing the Plan.

Indeed, the Plan stands as one of the most ambitious climate strategy across the world, with a stated goal of becoming the first carbon neutral capital by 2025. The city has prioritised low-carbon alternatives such as mass transit and biking over automobiles helping to support a “green wave”. Key to the strategy is an overall vision of smart city that leverages Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), linking data from a variety of sources to create new types of mobility solutions and services. Furthermore, the Plan is also working on making national framework conditions supportive for the City to achieve its targets, for instance by experimenting with approaches and practices of green public procurement, reduced or removed taxation for electric cars, stricter requirements in green areas, congestion pricing, as well as annual ‘heating label’ measures.

Implementation and governance

The City of Copenhagen has approached its Climate Plan within a broader vision of sustainable and quality urban environments. This vision is implemented through a set of synergistic policies and linked to other local master plans - including Waste and Resource Plan, Action Plan for Green Mobility, Cycling Strategy 2025 and the Municipality Eco-Metropolis 2015 -, each pursuing specific objectives, but with strong efforts in place to turn environmental and climate change goals a horizontal priority across sectoral domains.

The Climate Plan specifically addresses environmental objectives and decarbonization targets, via 60 initiatives identified and further initiated in close collaboration with local stakeholders, including utility companies, enterprises, social organizations and citizens. The Plan is therefore the result of collaborative efforts of the City of Copenhagen and numerous external players, who have all played a critical role in framing and implementing the Plan itself.

Among the key actions envisaged, we find:

  • Support to the transition towards green energy supply, which also includes improvements of energy infrastructure so that it becomes more resilient to wind and weather conditions, while allowing to store greater amounts of renewable energy.

  • Boosting green mobility, favoring biking and walking in the first instance, but also strengthening quality and access to public transport system. Support shall also be given to sharing models, electric and hydrogen-powered cars as well as to make traffic flows smooth.

  • Support to energy efficient buildings, both in the context of new developments and regenerations.

  • Wide capacity-building and awareness-raising actions targeting citizens at large, also via demonstration projects and provisioning of trainings for children and families.

The Plan is articulated into a clear list of initiatives to be taken accordingly to the thematic areas prioritised for intervention, each comprising target goals and specific KPIs (mainly environmental and health-related ones), and showing opportunities for both public and private investment. Transversally, the City is working to identify and overcome regulatory barriers that may hinder the development of the Plan, while making sure that sound coordination is applied to make the Plan work in close synergy with the other City’s initiatives in the field of environmental sustainability.

Despite the fact that the City of Copenhagen is responsible for implementing many of the initiatives proposed, the majority of them involve building owners in partnership with the Municipality, and are implemented in tandem with other stakeholders, also accounting for data-driven approaches to make services smarter and more tailored to citizens’ needs.

The Plan has been concretely developed via 3 roadmaps, each conceived flexibly. Every year, the municipality - in collaboration with the specific initiatives’ project leaders - identifies annual milestones and eventually revises targets accordingly. The Plan and the targets are therefore a combination of analysis and stakeholder involvement.

Investments in the Climate Plan are mostly made by the City of Copenhagen, in particular by municipally-owned utilities companies, and by private individuals. The government however funds projects to make new bike lanes for instance. Overall, the Plan is expected to lead to a funding requirement of around DKK 2,6 billion in the period 2013-2025.

When it comes to governance, the Plan is being implemented through a quadruple helix model which actively involves businesses, universities and citizens at large. The Municipality has taken a strong leadership in mobilizing all these actors, and facilitating an overall culture of shared experimentation and learning which has pushed ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking.

Results, impacts and learnings

The implementation of the Plan, although underway, has indeed proven valuable in supporting the transition of Copenhagen towards a carbon neutral City. The City has already reached relevant targets in reducing CO2 emissions, and indeed created a vibrant ecosystem of multiple initiatives (both public and private led) pursuing goals of environmental sustainability. Combining multiple interventions articulated around clear objectives, the City has been able to set an overall framework for coordinating local initiatives, and to drive them towards shared goals and targets. Besides, the adoption of a flexible approach based on constant review of steps made as well as on evidence analysis is generally perceived as a meaningful approach that allows to account for the broader context of rapid change and uncertainty. Yet, a number of challenges have been underlined. First, the regulatory aspects remain a major barrier, especially when it comes to aspects that are regulated at national level. Second, decarbonization actions cannot be set in place meaningfully without fostering and supporting behavioral change; however, this aspect requires in turn a huge effort that the Municipality cannot achieve alone, and that can be tackled partially through specific regulation. Funding also emerges as a major challenge, considering that decarbonization measures - to reach the set goals - should be implemented at a scale and scope which in turn require massive investment against long term period returns. Moreover, the finances that the Municipality gets is decided every year at the budget negotiations. Climate issues are therefore competing with other goals of establishing schools to children or offering better facilities for disabled children. However, there is increasing interest and commitment from businesses in engaging with greening and eco-friendly models and products - particularly as they see a “win-win” - which may push the City towards a positive path in the coming years.


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