Copenhagen’s Climate Adaptation Plan

“A GREENER COPENHAGEN IS A CLIMATE-PROOF COPENHAGEN: The Climate Adaptation Plan recommends that green spaces should contribute to adapting Copenhagen to cope with the weather of the future. A long-term, broad and focused effort to bring about a greener Copenhagen should be a preventive investment in a climate-proof Copenhagen with a high level of quality of life, health and satisfaction for the city’s population.”

Copenhagen Carbon Neutral by 2025, COPENHAGEN CLIMATE ADAPTATION

Copenhagen has made a cloudburst plan, which is currently being elaborated in cooperation with the Municipality of Frederiksberg. The work consists of planning a new cloudburst infrastructure as a whole to make Copenhagen and Frederiksberg more resistant to torrential rain. 

“We have to act because torrential rain is going to hit us more frequently in the future. We are ready with the first three concrete plans that will protect the city’s residents and businesses from flooding. I think we should give priority to create new recreation areas rather than solve the whole challenge of new underground pipes. But it is important that the people of Copenhagen have a significant impact on the choice of solutions, “says Technical and Environmental Mayor Ayfer Baykal.

CASE STUDY: Tåsinge Plads, Copenhagen, Denmark –  7.500 m²

ADVISORS: Malmos, GHB Landskabsarkitekter, Orbicon, VIA Trafik Rådgivning, Feld Studio for Digital Crafts

DEVELOPER: Københavns Kommune


PRICE: 2.000 kr per m²

CONTACT: René Sommer Lindsay

Projektchef Områdefornyelsen Skt. Kjelds Kvarter.


Tåsinge Plads, Copenhagen, Denmark

Tåsinge Plads part of Copenhagen’s plan to survive the future effects of climate change. During heavy rains, the flowerbeds fill with water and wait to drain until the storm runoff subsides. The upside-down umbrellas collect water to be used later to nourish the plantings. Landscaping is designed to direct stormwater into underground water storage tanks. Above are bouncy floor panels where energy from ground level footfall pumps water through the pipes below.

Flemming Rafn Thomsen, founding partner Copenhagen-based landscape architects Tredje Natur, describes it as an example of how the job of climate change adaptation can be turned from a negative thing into a positive one. “Water is used as a resource to improve urban life,” Rafn Thomsen says. “We look at Copenhagen as a hybrid city where you can fuse nature, urban biology and human beings in a more appropriate balance.”

Copenhagen has been hit by two “100-year flood” events, in 2011 and in 2014. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that this sort of extreme weather will become increasingly frequent in Denmark, with heavier downpours. Sea-level rise is a separate but related threat — according to research from the Niels Bohr Institute, the waters around Copenhagen could rise by up to 1.6 meters in the next 100 years.


Flowerbeds of Tåsinge Plads fill with water during heavy rains, while sculptures collect water to nourish plantings. Image: David Buchmann

Copenhagen has developed a Climate Adaptation Plan that relies mostly on a “green and blue” system approach where stormwater is dealt with at street level through a network of parks, cloudburst boulevards and retention zones rather than “gray” infrastructure” where water is redirected into the city’s existing subterranean sewer and drainage system. The latter would require doubling the city’s existing infrastructure to handle the higher expected volumes of rainwater by burying more and larger pipes to handle increased rain runoff.

Copenhagen’s council has approved plans for 300 surface-based solutions like those in Tåsinge Plads to be implemented over the next 20 years. “The ambition of the Climate Adaptation Plan is to get technical solutions above ground,” says René Sommer Lindsay, manager for project in the neighborhood around Tåsinge Plads.  “So when it’s not raining, there is still value in the space.”


For Copenhagen, the “green and blue” approach was also the most affordable option. It is expected to cost US$1.3 billion — about half the price of more conventional “gray” upgrades. Doing nothing was also an option leading to more flood damage costing the city an estimated $2.3 billion over a 100-year period. The the Danish think tank Sustainia stated: “It is both a financially sound investment and one that increases quality of life.

While water plays a central role in every one of the improvement projects, community engagement is very important. When the Tåsinge Plads project began in 2012, more than 10,000 people took part in community engagement projects. By building community gardens and art projects in the previously barren space, the community began to shape the square’s future by bringing some meaning to it.

A key element in the climate adaptation strategy of the City of Copenhagen is for achoice of solutions that emphasise that help to improve quality of life for the people of Copenhagen at the same time as being effective and economically justifiable. When methods are chosen for adaptation, there should be a focus on the greatest possible number of secondary gains and possible synergy with other planning. Desired secondary gains are:

• More recreational opportunities

• New jobs

• Improved local environment with more green elements


One comment

  1. Pingback: European Prize for Urban Public Space – Special Recognition for City of Copenhagen | Landscape Interface Studio

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