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Reykjavik unveils plan to limit urban sprawl to become carbon neutral by 2040

by Tom Gardner | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 12 September 2016 17:34 GMT

A car passes a road sign to Reykjavik in this file photo. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

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Climate policy blueprint puts Reykjavik at the forefront of global attempts to curb carbon emissions and combat climate change

By Tom Gardner

LONDON, Sept 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The Icelandic capital of Reykjavik is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2040 by imposing strict limits on urban sprawl and improving the efficiency of public transport, according to a plan unveiled by the city's mayor.

The climate policy blueprint puts Reykjavik at the forefront of global attempts to curb carbon emissions and combat climate change.

Like other Nordic cities, including Oslo and Helsinki, Reykjavik is working towards emissions targets that go beyond the national targets agreed by global leaders at the COP21 summit held in Paris last November.

In 2009, Reykjavik became the first municipality in Iceland to make a policy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"Cities play a key role in the fight against climate change. They can react quickly ... and are more often than naught far more progressive than the world's governments," Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson said in a foreward to the report released on Sept. 9.

In his city's action plan, Eggertsson noted that while other cities around the world had similarly ambitious targets, Reykjavik was better placed than most to meet its own since the city's carbon emissions are already relatively low.

Due to a ready local supply of geothermal energy all homes in the city and neighbouring municipalities are heated with geothermal energy. All electricity is produced with hydroelectric power.

The new plan includes several measures to achieve the target, with promises to mandate the green emphasis in all of the city's operations.

For example, one goal is to ensure all vehicles in the City of Reykjavik are powered by green energy by 2040, including both public and private transportation.

The city's public transport system stands in line for significant restructuring in order to increase the number of people using it to 12 percent from four percent by 2030.

The city is also planning to curb urban sprawl with 90 percent of all new residential units to now be constructed inside the city's current urban limits.

The plan said the aim is to reduce travel needs and promote a shift towards "urban densification".

This was in line with academic studies that point to the advantages enjoyed by compact, high-density cities in building mass transit systems and reducing carbon emissions. (Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; )

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