Reykjavik to go emissions-free by 2040

The mayor of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, has unveiled plans for the city to become completely carbon-neutral by 2040.

Achieving the target, which has been inspired by the agreement reached by the international community last year at the climate talks in Paris, will require changes in transport infrastructure but also a new approach to urban development.

With population of only 120,000, Reykjavik already has a head start compared to most cities around the world. The high level of volcanic activity, for which Iceland is known, provides the whole island with enough geothermal energy to heat most of its dwellings. All homes in Reykjavik and its neighbouring municipalities rely on this clean source of heat despite the region’s cold climate. Reykjavik’s electricity supply is already 100 per cent renewable, relying mostly on hydroelectric power.

"Cities play a key role in the fight against climate change,” Reykjavik’s Mayor Dagur B Eggertsson said in a statement announcing the plan. “They can react quickly ... and are more often than not far more progressive than the world's governments."

As Iceland’s electricity generation is already almost emission-free, what remains for Reykjavik to address is its transport sector. By 2040, all vehicles operated in the city, both privately and publicly, should be powered by green energy.

The city's public transport system will undergo significant restructuring to encourage more residents to use it.

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

The plan says the aim is to reduce travel needs and promote a shift towards ‘urban densification’ 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.

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