By Natasha Pearce

They may cycle more than us, but is Copenhagen really that far ahead in its sustainability plans? The city’s 2012 pledge to become the first carbon neutral city by 2025 has already been defaulted.

Infographics by Natasha Pearce

The most recent part of the plan was to install carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology at the local waste-to-energy plant to remove CO2 from the smokestack before it’s emitted to the atmosphere. CCS has been discussed since the early 2000s but has yet to be deployed elsewhere besides the oil industry.

The problem is the need for financial support alongside the right legislation. Copenhagen was never going to pay the full cost and it’s cheap to emit CO2 so there is no business gain in using CSS technology. In legal areas, Amager Resource Centre (ARC) are not willing to be responsible for the liability and risks of the supply chain. PhD student in Department of Food and Resources at University of Copenhagen, Kirstine Lund Christiansen says these issues mean the goal was always too optimistic.

According to Kristine, Copenhagen was never going to be a CO2 neutral city as there are still cars. She argues that “We get to CO2 neutral on paper but not in reality.” The government didn’t want to implement a policy on having no fossil fuel cars, as this would be unpopular with the public – especially with the upcoming elections being around the corner.

The PhD student argues that the city is responsible for its own failure. “Copenhagen has set the target so it’s on Copenhagen.”

“Copenhagen has benefitted from this internationally and now they haven’t delivered. As a person from Copenhagen, I should be able to say you didn’t deliver.”

Kirstine says instead of setting unreachable targets for future dates “We should look at what emissions we have under control and then do something about that.” Copenhagen should find alternatives to the use of CCS technology.

This article is written for an audience engaged in the climate debate; it could be published in the Economist to reach an international audience.