Copenhagen develops big plans to be sustainable

Written by Maite Porras de Kwant and Inge van Breda

Copenhagen is often said to be one of the front-runners when it comes to sustainability, but the city wants to be more sustainable than ever. Almost all public canteens are serving organic food and the government has set the goal to be completely carbon-neutral in 2025.

Professor Katherine Richardson leads the Sustainability Science Centre in Copenhagen. Amongst researching their own subjects, the centre provides advise to the municipality of Copenhagen on their efforts to become carbon neutral by 2025. The Sustainability Science Centre consists of different professors. “We are not a traditional science centre where different academics are employed – the academics are employed in their own department, but they come out of the departments to work together and research. If the municipality wants to find a certain expertise they can come to us”, says Katherine Richardson.

Copenhagen has a good reputation in being a sustainable city. According to Richardson, one of the starting points was the oil crisis in the 1970’s. Denmark was brought to its knees, chose to get rid of all oil and started using coal instead. With that change, they really started focusing on energy efficiency. Besides that, the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference made sustainability even more important. “With COP 15 in 2009, it was obvious to make Copenhagen into a showcase for climate. That could be why we have such a reputation”, according to the professor.

Climate change depends on the cities

“It means a lot for a city to be sustainable, for society, so many people have moved to cities and they still are. And sometimes it’s easier for cities to become sustainable than for the countrysides. Cities don’t do agriculture and food production, and it’s easy to make transport systems”, says Richardson. “If we can’t break the nut of climate change in the cities, it’s never going to happen. It’s often said that whether we will solve the climate crisis depends on the cities.”

The government of Denmark has the ambitious goal to double the country’s organically cultivated areas by 2020. “We will now unite our efforts to further develop organic production and consumption for the benefit of the environment, our nature, animal welfare and future generations”, writes Dan Jørgensen, Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries in the plan.

According to Richardson, setting targets is the most important aspect in Copenhagen wanting to become carbon neutral by 2025. “The mere fact that the city is able to say ‘Okay, we want to be carbon neutral by 2015’, that’s a big deal. But there are a lot of challenges left, especially regarding transport”, says Richardson. But whether the goal will be achieved is still a question. “It is a big goal, but if you don’t dare to set your goals very high and then dare to miss them, you make life too easy. We may not actually make it in time, but we will be closer and that’s the most important thing.”

Organic food

Copenhagen is not only trying to be as sustainable as possible but is also aware of organic foods. Worldwide, Denmark has the biggest organic market share at 9,4% in 2016. In Copenhagen the percentage is even higher with 17% of the market share.

Mette Dahlgaard Jensen, chef of organic restaurant Gemyse, says public kitchens are advanced in serving organic meals compared to most restaurants in Copenhagen. In several canteens, hospitals and nurseries organic food is served to 800.000 people every day.

Gemyse is located in the heart of Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. Chef Jensen thinks the way of growing organic food is an important factor. “When you are working with organic food, think about using everything and not only a little of the vegetable.”

For more information about the organic restaurant Gemyse and chef Mette Dahlgaard Jensen watch the video in the link below.

Link to infographic

This story is written for an audience in The Netherlands, and could be published on