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COPENHAGEN: Inviting the world to see how it’s done

2014 promises to be an active green year in the Danish capital, as a broad range of city, national and international partners take on Sharing Copenhagen. From cycling to harbour bathing, resource efficiency to green mobility and not least the transition of a European capital to be CO2 neutral in 2025 – Copenhagen will be one big workshop and display case for the modern era.


By Julian Isherwood

As Viking winter bathers wait to break the ice of Copenhagen Harbour and plunge into the cold pristine waters of an erstwhile bustling harbour front, the Danish capital itself is busy polishing its latest award ready for next year’s stint as European Green Capital.

Launched in 2008 by the European Commission on the initiative of 15 European cities, the European Green Capital Award is one of those prestigious prizes you yearn for as an outward-going showcase of green development that seeks to create healthy urban areas that people want to live in.

“It’s all about a holistic attitude to urban development in a major city. Looking at all of the parameters and getting everyone interested and involved,” says Casper Harboe, Programme Manager of the award’s activities for 2014 under the slogan ‘Sharing Copenhagen’.

“This is an award that will not only enable us to show the many things that we are doing and have done – but we are just as interested in getting input from other cities and partners on some of their initiatives. How we together can develop ideas and practical solutions that make cities and urban areas attractive to live in, but workable at the same time,” he says.

The goal of making Copenhagen 2014 into a living laboratory for green solutions is not one that only involves city authorities. With some 100 partners across the city – from grass root organisations, housing and estate groups to businesses, architects and planners, Sharing Copenhagen promises to be an Eldorado for other European cities seeking to meet the challenges of modern city living and sustainability.

“In cities we are all living on a burning platform and we have to do something now to make it all much more sustainable. We must all look at alternative ways of doing things for the millions of people and businesses who live and work in big cities,” says Harboe, adding that the 2014 slogan of sharing also has to do with new ways of using resources.

“We must look into new mind-sets – not just the big things that authorities and businesses do, but also the little things that we all do. Sharing also has to do with individuals and families. Sharing resources such as power tools, for example, or Christiania bicycles,” says Harboe.

Casper Harboe 
"Our invitation is – come and see, and come and share with us,” says Casper Harboe, Programme Manager of Sharing Copenhagen – European Green Capital 2014"

With the many local and larger activities being prepared across the capital for 2014, visitors and locals will be able to see what is already being done across much of the city, and not least the results of urban planning and climate plans that won Copenhagen the INDEX: Design to improve life award for its climate adaptation plan.

“I rolled my eyes a bit when I learned that the host city of the design awards won a top prize. Then you come here and see what is going on. Cycling infrastructure everywhere. A harbour so clean that people are swimming in it. They are doing things here that other cities dream about or just ignore,” said Lloyd Alter, managing editor of TreeHugger and a sustainable design guru.

While cycling and intelligent traffic solutions are a central focus theme throughout the workshops and mobility themes – Copenhagen has been dubbed the ‘City of cyclists’ - it remains only one part of the overall 2014 Sharing Copenhagen theme universe.

“We are planning so much. There will be masses for everyone to see and take part in. The focus themes are set throughout the year at different starting points,” says Harboe.

‘The liveable city of the future’, which is due to run from January to April will be highlighting urban development, smart cities, new technologies and life in the cities of the future.

“In the ‘Resource efficiency and sustainable consumption’ we will be stressing resources and waste, energy consumption and not least drinking water, among other such issues. These are vital to us all. We already have some of the solutions, but as a society we must develop them even more,” says Harboe.

During this theme, some 3-5,000 scientists will be taking part in the biennial international Euroscience Open Forum research and innovation meeting at the end of June.

“We must use ESOF2014 to discuss current and ground-breaking research, impart exciting  new knowledge and debate and which research policies we will pursue in the future not just in Denmark, but in Europe and at a global level,” said Denmark’s then Science Minister Charlotte Sahl-Madsen when it was decided to locate to Copenhagen.

Apart from ESOF, other conferences include that of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which will issue its annual report during the final focus theme of Climate and Green transition’.

“The IPCC should feel at home here. Copenhagen has the clear target of being CO2 neutral in 2025. This is definitely realistic and achievable. We have our climate plan and we have a clear timetable for energy savings and efficiency drives in buildings and homes,” says Harboe
“So our invitation is – come and see, and come and share with us,” Harboe concludes.

The five themes

Jan – April The liveable city of the future
Cities and sustainability, smart city, urban space and quality of life, the cohesive city 
April – July Resource Efficiency and Sustainable Consumption
Resources and waste, food, design and recycling, energy consumption and buildings, water.
July – Aug The Green and Blue City
Blue and green urban solutions, sea swimming pools and city beaches, parks and green areas, biodiversity, urban gardening.
Aug - October Green Mobility
Cycling, public transport, accessibility.
October – Dec The Climate and Green Transition
Climate change adaptation, energy renovation, CO2 reduction