How did Copenhagen become so successful?

August 19, 2015


Copenhagen has been named European Green Capital in 2014 and the most liveable city in the world three times in a row. 50% of its population cycles to work or school and the harbour waters are so clean that people swim in them.


As a consequence, the question that closed yesterday’s event - Smart and liveable solutions in a Danish-Singaporean perspective - was: “How did Copenhagen become so successful?”.


The value of the answers rests in the personal lens that each attendee put on the reasons behind Copenhagen’s success so we gathered some of them in the attempt to transfer the lively discussion to the readers.


Public administration's commitment


“Wind energy was initially subsidised by the government so every farmer had its own windmill. That grew today’s big players in the wind energy sector. Because the government encouraged the sector, this spread nationwide - the wind energy is the second largest exported industry by Denmark.”


“There are a lot of different policies to be put in place before starting to work. Copenhagen has excelled by having a great plan and politicians who followed through and stuck to it.”


“When you have a good framework you give a chance to citizens to act accordingly e.g. if you have good bike lanes, there are more chances that people will bike.”


“In Copenhagen citizens engagement starts at a kindergarten level. Kids in Copenhagen are taken to recycling plants and have classes with police who teach them how to bike around the city. Any type of change is most sustainable through an early start and cultural change.”




“A lot of civil sector engagement is happening which contributes to the government’s efforts. Also, work-life balance mentality allows one to prioritise the family and the time for himself and the surrounding.”


“An examples of success is in agriculture. When people came together and created cooperatives, they realised that together they can be more successful. So there is an appreciation for doing things together and building something”


“Copenhagen has created this sense of success – we had a few successful projects long time ago and since then every time a project is initiated everyone believes that it will succeed and so it builds determination for next projects. The moment you loose faith you stop being successful“


The event was organized by CLEAN and Quercus Group and hosted by Ramboll with the ocasion of a Singaporean delegation visit. During the discussion moderated by Nicolai Sederberg Rottbøll, both Danish and Singaporean representatives presented even more insights on the liveability of the two nations. One can read more about Copenhagen’s plan to become CO2 neutral by 2025 at this link and about Singapore’s strategy on becoming a Smart Nation here.

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