Reykjavík to be carbon neutral by 2040

21st September 2016 Nick Michell

Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, has put forward a climate policy paper with an action plan aiming for a carbon neutral city by 2040.

In Reykjavík, all electricity is produced with hydroelectric power and houses are geothermally heated. The release of greenhouse gases in Reykjavík is minor compared with international figures, but transport is the main source of emissions and is the largest challenge for the city.

“Reykjavik has the largest geothermal district heating system in the world,” Monika Zimmermann, Deputy Secretary General of ICLEI, told Cities Today. “The use of fossil fuel for electricity and heating in cities is still widespread, and Reykjavík is well ahead of the curve in meeting a good proportion of its energy demands with renewables. Now the city recognises that it needs to transform other sectors, and transport in particular, to become carbon neutral by 2040.”

In the city‘s Municipal Plan 2010-2030, the goal is to change travel modes so that public transport usage rises from 4 to 12 percent and the ratio of pedestrians and cyclists rises from 19 to over 30 percent in 2030.

In 2009, Reykjavík became the first municipality in Iceland to make a policy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In 2016, the Reykjavík City Council decided to go further and make even more ambitious goals: Reykjavík City will be carbon neutral by 2040.

“Achieving carbon neutrality is entirely within the realm of what is possible for cities,” added Zimmermann. “It sets an ambitious target, while also recognising that certain steps towards climate neutrality may be easier to attain than others. For example, with strong advancements in public transport, walking, cycling and waste management, Reykjavík may be able to become carbon neutral, even if efforts to increase electric-powered modes of transport fall behind schedule.”

Reykjavík‘s goal is to increase the use of bicycles and buses as primary means of transport and to ensure that people have the chance of commuting to work on foot. With electric cars becoming more common, Reykjavík will increase the availability of charging stations, preferably at home, in parking garages and on specific locations within the city.

These goals are intrinsically linked to urban densification, which also produces opportunities for a more efficient public transport system through the use of either light railways or a bus rapid transit system.

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