Mon, Oct 01, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Copenhagen setting an example for sustainable urban design

By Lin Taylor  /  Thomson Reuters Foundation, COPENHAGEN

Kayaking along canals to pick up your groceries, walking a few minutes to the metro station, or cycling down pedestrianized streets to meet the neighbors: If you want to live in Copenhagen’s North Harbour, a car would be obsolete.

That, at least, is the aim of architect Rita Justesen. Since 2007 she has been tasked with transforming the former industrial harbor in Denmark’s capital into a brand-new neighborhood, and ensuring its 3.5 million square meters of residential and commercial floor space is financially viable and climate-smart.

That means cars tucked away, inconveniently, in centralized carparks to discourage driving; more cycle paths; canals and harbor pools clean enough to swim in; and the construction of a well-connected metro station for its projected 40,000 residents and 40,000 workers by 2060.

As nations race to reach ambitious climate goals to lower carbon emissions, many cities have been looking to sustainable urban designs to help residents cut energy use, boost social well-being and cohesion, and cope with rising heat and flooding.

Designing spaces that acknowledge the impact of climate change can help to change behavior and make it easier for people to live greener lives, according to a report by the British Psychological Society.

“We said we would make a sustainable city ‘the Copenhagen way.’ That means that to live sustainably, it has to be easy. So that means short distances to the metro, shops and recreational functions,” said Justesen, lead architect at city council-owned firm By & Havn.

“We also really want to make an attractive district where people want to live and stay — that for us is also sustainable in the long term,” said Justesen, as she walked past construction sites in North Harbor, which has housed 1,500 residents since 2015.

Around the world, cities use more than two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for about three-quarters of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the UN.

With rapid urbanization, more than two-thirds of people will live in cities by 2050, the UN projects.

That is why cities are seen as key to meeting the commitment under the 2015 Paris Agreement of reducing emissions to keep the rise in global temperatures to “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

A 1.5°C rise would give vulnerable populations a chance of surviving climate shocks like flooding, cyclones, droughts and higher sea levels, experts say.

Worldwide, sea levels have risen 26cm since the late 19th century, driven up by melting ice and a natural expansion of water in the oceans as they warm, UN data show.

A UN panel of climate scientists said in 2014 that sea levels could rise by up to a meter by 2100.

Surrounded by open waters and prone to heavy rainfall, Copenhagen faces the same risks as low-lying, poorer cities.

The sea level around the harbor city is expected to rise by up to 1m over the next century, the Danish Meteorological Institute has said.

Copenhagen council estimated that if there were no form of protection from flooding due to storm surges, the damage over the next century would cost up to 20 billion Danish kroner (US$3.14 billion).

By comparison, it would cost up to 4 billion Danish krone to prevent this from happening.

Apart from future-proofing itself from the sea-level rise and flooding — from green roofs and parks that absorb rainwater, to large barriers that can curb flooding — the city is also on a mission to become the first capital to cut climate-changing emissions by 2025.

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