Beijing – Copenhagen Sister-City Partnership

     China Daily reported that Beijing and Copenhagen are to forge a sister-city partnership with Mayor of Copenhagen Frank Jensen announcing this prior to his trip to Beijing for an official signing of the agreement.

     The official ceremony to sign the Beijing-Copenhagen sister-city agreement will take place in Beijing this week.

     The sister-city agreement will mark the first time in decades that Copenhagen has chosen such a partnership, as it has previously preferred to collaborate in international city groupings.

     These include the C40 group of the world’s biggest cities which emphasizes green and sustainable urban development, and of which Beijing is a member. Copenhagen is also part of the Euro cities group of 135 European cities, currently chaired by Jensen.

     Both the mayors, Frank Jensen and Guo Jinlong, are scheduled to participate in the 2012 Beijing Forum on the Sustainable Development of Cities, which starts Tuesday, 26 June.

     “I know that Beijing is implementing ambitious goals on sustainable facilities and we hope that Beijing can be inspired by the lessons we have learned in Copenhagen,” said Frank Jensen in a recent interview with Xinhua.

     “Beijing and Copenhagen are also two cities which have a lot to give our countries, because they are engines for creating new growth, innovation and jobs both in China and Denmark,” he added.

     The Beijing-Copenhagen sister-city agreement is expected to boost especially the cooperation on meeting energy efficiency and renewable energy targets, and in reducing traffic congestion problems in both the big cities.

     “The city of Beijing says it wants to focus on sustainable solutions, the clean-technology sector, social welfare and livability, and how to be a growing city and still have a focus on citizens’ quality of life. I think we have a lot to share with each other to develop both cities,” Jensen said.

     Greater Copenhagen, which has some 1.2 million inhabitants, has undergone a green transition in recent years, which has helped regenerate its former industrial areas and polluted harbor, and reduced its reliance on fossil-fuel based energy sources.

     In 2009, the city authorities announced an ambitious plan to become the world’s first carbon neutral city by the year 2025, in a move that would see the city cut 2.5 million tons carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year. It has already achieved its mid-term goal of reducing CO2 emissions to 20 percent of 2005 levels by the year 2015.

     Current renewable-energy investments include offshore wind-turbine parks in Copenhagen harbor and a district heating and electricity plant powered by urban and household waste. It wants to increase electricity generated from wind, solar and geothermal sources, and to install another 100 wind turbines to supply the city power grid.

     “Many of our sustainable solutions can be replicated in other cities given our experience of what works and what does not work, when it comes to developing our cities in a more green and sustainable way,” Jensen said.

      He also sees the sister-city agreement leading to initiatives that make both cities more attractive to live in. Copenhagen already ranks among the world’s most livable cities, thanks to its focus on cutting environmental pollution, traffic congestion and people-centric urban planning.

      A key reason for success in this area has been in convincing residents to ditch their cars and get on their bikes when they commute inside the city. In fact, half of all Copenhagen residents bike to work every day.

     The city is now expanding its cycle network by 30 percent, in a move to reduce CO2 emissions by 7,000 tons per year. This will also cut the city’s healthcare expenditure bill by 300 million Danish kroner (around 53 million U.S. dollars) annually, owing to improved health of commuters.

     Jensen himself bikes to work at Copenhagen City Hall every morning, and told Xinhua it was “the most efficient way to commute in Copenhagen,” ranking above the city’s bus and underground rail network.

     He added that biking is less stressful than driving, builds a sense of community in a big city, and is a great social leveler.

     “In Copenhagen, all kinds of people go by bike: the ministers, (sub)mayors, businessmen. It is not only for poor people. It is also for people in prestigious positions,” Jensen said.

     Given that Beijing is a relatively flat city, and was famous for its bicycle traffic until some years ago, he believes there is great potential to develop bicycling infrastructure there, which in turn will lower air pollution.

     Urban energy efficiency systems, such as district heating and cooling installations, waste and waste water management, could provide further areas of technical collaboration between the two cities.

     Jensen admitted Copenhagen and Beijing are very different cities, but “are facing the same big problems” such as higher energy prices and a need to cut CO2 emissions, and therefore “have to share the solutions.”

     Moreover, these measures could lead to lower energy bills for city residents and generate green-sector jobs, which Jensen said are sorely needed in Denmark and China.

     In the long term, he envisages Copenhagen as a hub for green energy industries, and “as a green laboratory for testing new solutions” which can then be rolled out in other cities including Beijing.

     He expects the two cities to invest heavily in sustainable solutions and work with local businesses and universities to develop green technologies.

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