Mayors from across the globe look towards work by Danish municipalities on climate change at COP26 in Glasgow

8. November 2021

Please go ahead and steal our ideas! This was the plea from Realdania, Local Government Denmark and the Mayor of Sønderborg at the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow on Tuesday. They were there to present the DK2020 climate project, in which no less than 95 Danish municipalities have pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050. A number that drew spontaneous applause from city mayors from around the world, who had gathered in Glasgow City Chambers to hear more about the Danish municipalities’ historic collaboration on climate change.

While the world’s heads of state gathered in Glasgow this week to discuss their nations’ contribution to meeting climate change mitigation targets, municipal leaders from cities throughout the world converged on Glasgow City Chambers to share their experiences in combatting climate change. The event was organised by C40 Cities, a global network of cities taking action to address climate change.

The city leaders attended a presentation of Danish climate project DK2020, in which Realdania, Local Government Denmark and the five Danish Regions have partnered to support 95 Danish municipalities in developing climate action plans that live up to the ambitious targets of the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, Copenhagen Municipality – a member of C40 Cities – has devised such a plan already. 

In other words: 96 out of the 98 Danish municipalities have either already drawn up a climate action plan based on the same framework as some of the world’s megacities, or are hard at work drafting one.

DK2020 has engaged practically every Danish municipality

“In DK2020, we’ve devised a model for how even smaller towns and cities like those in Denmark can apply the same climate change mitigation tools in their own, local climate action plans as the world’s most ambitious megacities. DK2020 has enabled us to unite practically every Danish municipality around a truly ambitious goal so that together, shoulder to shoulder, they can strive to become carbon neutral by 2050. This is unprecedented. And we would very much like to share this model and knowledge with other cities as inspiration for their own local efforts to mitigate climate change. Please, everyone, go ahead and steal our ideas mercilessly,” said Jesper Nygård, CEO of Realdania.  

Mayor Erik Lauritzen swapped his own town hall in Sønderborg for Glasgow’s, when on Tuesday he stood before colleagues from cities as far afield as Stockholm, Paris, Bogotá, Athens, Phoenix and Dhaka in Bangladesh to share the climate efforts his municipality has already set in motion. 

Sønderborg has raised a high bar even higher with its ambitious climate plan

“Despite our relatively small size in Sønderborg, with just 75,000 inhabitants, we have come a long, long way on the climate front. Our work began with Project Zero; a public-private partnership on climate change in Sønderborg. And this was followed by DK2020. We’ve managed to reduce our carbon emissions by 52 percent since 2007, and we’ve encouraged our citizens and local businesses to think more energy-efficiently. We’ve introduced green district heating, solar farms and wind power. We’re collaborating with local agriculture to help transform agricultural waste into biogas, we’ve converted the public bus network to run on green fuel, and local schoolchildren learn about sustainability as part of their curriculum. We were already well on our way towards a greener Sønderborg, but with DK2020 we’ve set ourselves an even greater challenge by taking the municipality’s climate plan to the next level. DK2020 raises a high bar for climate action even higher,” said Erik Lauritzen, Mayor of Sønderborg. 
He is in no doubt about what makes DK2020 a model worth imitating:
“DK2020 means that Danish municipalities are working from the same groundwork, using the same tools and measuring results in the same way. This has made a world of difference. It makes it easier to work together and compare notes, and in a way there is also an element of healthy competition: We support each other but we also egg each other on to aim even higher. In this sense, DK2020 has brought a whole new level of ambition to municipal climate efforts. Furthermore, DK2020 has strengthened our position as municipalities. With 96 municipalities working to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement, we present a united front and have more clout when we present our demands to our colleagues in the Danish parliament to secure a better foundation on which to implement our climate efforts,” said Erik Lauritzen.

The strength of DK2020 is in its broad partnership

Laila Kildesgaard, the director of Local Government Denmark, which together with the five Danish Regions is a partner in DK2020, explained that a major part of the success of DK2020 is down to its organisation:
“The reason that we’ve been able to increase the number of municipalities in DK2020 from the original 20 in the pilot project in 2019 to 95 of Denmark’s 98 municipalities today, is because the first 20 led by example, inspiring others to follow. Moreover, managing to engage politicians at all levels has lent the project great strength: Practically every mayor in Denmark, the five Danish Regions and Local Government Denmark with support from Realdania, and the finest minds from the green think tank CONCITO and C40 Cities. This is something quite unique,” said Laila Kildesgaard when she spoke at Glasgow City Chambers on Tuesday.  

She also stressed a major advantage in uniting all the Danish municipalities around a single set of climate tools developed by the C40 Cities network, which hosted the event at Glasgow City Chambers:

“Prior to DK2020, a number of Danish municipalities were already at work drafting climate plans. But they were all going about it in their own particular way, working with a wide range of goals and methods. Under DK2020, they’re all using the same tools and working towards the same goals. The result is that the municipalities participating in DK2020 can far better collaborate and draw inspiration from one another in their climate efforts,” says Laila Kildesgaard. 

Canada looking to DK2020 for inspiration

One country watching DK2020 and Danish municipalities’ work on climate change with great interest is Canada. So much so that the Trottier Family Foundation, the largest philanthropic player in Canada within the climate and cities field, accepted the invitation to take the stage and explain what they see as potentials to export the DK2020 model to Canada:
“A couple of years back we offered to assist the city of Montreal in developing a climate action plan that lives up to the targets of the Paris Agreement. This partnership has been very successful, and a number of other cities in Canada are now reaching out for assistance. We’re very interested in scaling up our work with Montreal to include three to five other Canadian cities. In this respect, DK2020 is a fantastic source of inspiration,” said Eric St-Pierre, executive director of the Trottier Family Foundation.

More on DK2020 and the 95 participating municalities

The event is available for streaming below – starts at approximately 2:02:00