How Can Cities Implement the UN's Sustainability Goals?

by Alexander Bonde

In a fast-growing society and with the development of global urbanization, we all forgot about the environment. The rush of building new workplaces, neighbourhoods, and transport infrastructure resulted in concrete jungles and limited green areas all around the world.

Now, as we know our mistakes and their consequences, the only way to get back on track and help the environment is by implementing sustainability friendly initiatives and looking for ways to cover the UN's Sustainability Goals.

Each of us can contribute to the goals individually, but the biggest impact will be visible when municipalities implement initiatives and begin their journey to become sustainable, smart cities.

Danish cities on the top of Global Destinations Sustainability Index

The Global Destination Sustainability Index includes benchmarking, improving and recognizing the sustainability strategy, performance, and regeneration of destinations. The index is aligned with the UN's Sustainability Goals and evaluates cities based on their pro-sustainable actions.

The biggest Danish cities provide a great example that implementing sustainable strategies is possible. Copenhagen received 88 points out of 100, which resulted in a second-place on the GDSI list. Aalborg can be proud of their 5th place ranking with a score of 76 points. Also, Aarhus, which every year jumps higher in the ranking, can be proud of their 2019 placement of 14th on the list.

What’s more, in 2018, the city of Copenhagen received an innovation award from the Global Destination Sustainability Index to recognize their pro-sustainable initiatives as standing out from the crowd. 

The great results from Danish cities prove that their actions are very much appreciated, which will hopefully inspire other municipalities to consider the implementation of similar solutions.

Cities’ environmentally friendly initiatives

The points described below include the most important parts of the sustainability program for two of the biggest cities in Denmark. Determining a goal is extremely important, but we will mention specific initiatives that municipalities have implemented to achieve positive results.

1. Lowering CO2 emissions

Copenhagen and Aarhus have in their programmes the goal of being carbon neutral cities by the year 2025 and 2030 respectively. That includes strategic policy and major infrastructure investment decisions. 

Cities can start eliminating fossil fuels from public transport by using transportation powered by electricity and investing further in cycling infrastructure, which will support popular cycling culture among citizens and tourists.

2. Reusable power resources

More and more electricity providers ensure customers in Danish cities that their energy comes from reusable resources. 

One of the most popular at the moment is wind fields, with almost 40% of the energy produced by the country coming from that source. In addition to that, Aarhus and Copenhagen provide their citizens with biomass heating and electricity.

3. Green renovations and new sustainable buildings

40% of Denmark’s CO2 emissions in 2016 came from buildings. Conscious of the problem, municipalities decided to implement a plan of green renovations and include restrictions for the construction of new houses. 

Energy optimisation in buildings was possible thanks to the collaboration of knowledge institutions and architects. Thoroughly designed projects resulted in higher energy efficiency of buildings over their entire life cycle and better conditions for residents.

4.Clean water in the harbour

Water quality has increased thanks to investment in the modernization of the sewerage system, with both Copenhagen and Aarhus now being able to offer their citizens public harbour baths. Adopting a cleaning programme and diverting local rainwater brought huge benefits for local communities and tourists by giving them a chance to take a swim in clean harbour water without commuting several kilometres. 

At the same time, they reduced the risk of urban flooding and increased diversity of flora and fauna returning to the sea.

5.City without waste

Taking into consideration the waste hierarchy, cities try to reduce the amount of produced waste by promoting a more circular economy and implementing the best recycling initiatives.

Popular in Denmark “genbrug” (translated from Danish “recycling”) stores, where second-hand furniture, clothes and house equipment can be bought, encourage sustainable behaviour. Furthermore, in Aarhus, citizens have an opportunity to visit Reuse, where they can pick up used furniture and household accessories in good condition for free.   

Another waste management initiative is the integration of innovative waste solutions in urban spaces. The Municipality of Aarhus has partnered with WasteHero to monitor the waste collection efficiency of bins throughout the city. 

Aarhus Municipality aims to decrease the unnecessary collection of half-empty bins by more than 40%. Fewer trucks on the streets and less regular emptyings will reduce CO2 emissions and help the city to achieve their sustainability goals for upcoming years.

WasteHero and sustainability goals

One of the targets for the UN’s goal number 11 Sustainable Cities And Communities says:

“By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management”

WasteHero helps municipalities to implement innovative waste management solutions, which will help them to gain insights and control over waste streams. Need-based pick-ups result in fewer emptyings and trucks on the streets, which reduce air pollution and CO2 emissions.

What’s more, WasteHero ensures an overall cost reduction on waste management. Savings can be invested back into other environmentally friendly initiatives, bringing municipalities closer to the UN’s goal of becoming a sustainable city.

  • WasteHero
  • Municipality
  • Smart City
  • Recycle

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