Reykjavík is drawing on its expertise in geothermal and renewable energy in a bid to become the world’s first carbon neutral city. The Icelandic capital has announced aims to be carbon neutral by 2040 through a range of initiatives, including curbing urban sprawl and encouraging wider use of public transport.

The city already has a head-start on the target, given that virtually all of its electricity and heating needs are met by renewable resources, predominantly geothermal and hydroelectric sources. On a per capita basis, Iceland is ahead of any other nation in geothermal generating capacity. Reykjavík itself is a global centre for renewable energy research and development, combining academic, government, and public and private company initiatives. The city is home to the Iceland School of Energy, which brings together Reykjavik Energy, Iceland GeoSurvey and Reykjavik University. Government leaders are working towards emissions targets that go beyond the national targets agreed at the recent COP21 summit held in Paris, and government-sponsored programmes help fund new renewable energy projects. Last year, the Icelandic centre for corporate social responsibility, Festa, encouraged 104 company leaders to sign a pledge to measure and reduce waste and emissions.

Reykjavík’s plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 2.8 tonnes per person in 2013 to zero centre largely on transport, particularly the traditional reliance on cars. The city aims to increase the use of public transport from 4 per cent to 12 per cent of its citizens by 2030. It wants cycling to increase from 19 per cent to more than 30 per cent, and is encouraging electric car use amongst its 9,000 public employees and others via free parking and lower taxes. Initiatives include investing in new bike paths, installing more electric car charging points, and the development of a new rapid bus or light rail system.

City planning issues are also being reviewed to curb urban sprawl and develop more higher-density retail, office and residential units in prime downtown real estate.

The climate policy blueprint puts Reykjavík at the forefront of global attempts to curb carbon emissions and combat climate change. Its combination of knowledge and new initiatives could see the city become more attractive to international associations or organisations focusing on the latest developments in renewable energy, sustainable town planning and urban design, and eco-friendly public transport.

Áshildur Bragadóttir, director of Visit Reykjavík, agreed better green credentials could also increase the city’s attractiveness as an international conference location halfway across the Atlantic: “We have the geysers, great water pools, glaciers, volcanos – the landscape is constantly changing because of eruptions, earthquakes and climate change. In Reykjavík, I think we are more concerned about nature than perhaps other nations because we are so connected to our island, landscape and natural wonders.”


via The Guardian, Green City Times