Sustainable Cities™

Copenhagen: The new climate generation

The project 'A new climate generation' involves four Copenhagen schools and the idea is to train nursery and school teachers to teach about the environment and 1500 school students as climate ambassadors. The project is part of Copenhagen's Climate Plan, which also includes a number of other initiatives, such as the Children's Climate Forest project which has already resulted in school students planting 8111 trees. The object of Copenhagen's Climate Plan is to contribute to a greener environment and a carbon neutral Copenhagen in 2025.

Mobile Science Center projektet. Unge bygger bæredygtige bymiljøer med grøn energi. venligst udlånt af Bæredygtig udvikling.

Copenhagen's children are the city's future and it is they who must be involved in creating a more sustainable way of life. This reason, involving children and learning about the environment play a major role in the Municipality of Copenhagen's ambitious climate plan 'Carbon neutral in 2025', which was adopted by the Municipal Council on 27 August 2009. The plan designates 50 specific enterprises and initiatives which will together make Copenhagen the world's first carbon-neutral capital in 2025.

The Municipality of Copenhagen intends to 'ignite the climate flame' among its school students. It therefore nominated some of its schools in 2009 as climate schools, including Guldbergskole and Matthaeusgade Skole. During the run-up to the COP15 climate summit in December 2009, the schools underwent a number of physical improvements. At the same time, their pedagogical profile was tuned to make them leaders in the municipality in terms of teaching about the climate. Students at the climate schools are inspirited and made more aware of how Copenhagen makes use of energy. Themes such as solar, wind and water energy and recycling have become natural ingredients of the science and social sciences curricula.

When the eyes of the world focused on Copenhagen during COP15 in 2009 there was an extra-sharp focus on sustainability and many activities culminated during this period. However, the Municipality of Copenhagen has been working with climate education in different forms for about the last 15 years. Now it is a question of following up many of the good initiatives connected with COP15, during which a children's climate summit was also held. Here, several young people were trained as climate ambassadors, child experts so to speak, who are able to communicate climate and environmental issues to their classmates, to initiate activities, create awareness about climate and to make demands of school management. The municipality also developed a variety of teaching resources in connection with COP15, including the 'climate caravan' and '1 ton less'.


Some COP15 projects have lived on and in new ones have seen the light of day, although it has become more difficult to obtain funding, according to Per Quaade, head of the unit Sustainable Development in the city's Child and Youth Administration. In fact, the Climate Generation project is the only part of the more comprehensive project, Generation Sustainable, to have been realised, as it has unfortunately not been possible to raise enough funds for the original project in its entirety.

Another project, which has run over a period of several years, is the Climate Forest, also part of Copenhagen's Climate Plan. The project is aimed at younger middle school-age students and is intended to give all children in the Municipality of Copenhagen the opportunity to plant trees in their local environment or to take part in large commentary-planting events, such as one on 23rd April in Kongelunden, south of the city. The idea of the Climate Forest is to inspire greater green awareness and to benefit the climate as well as contributing to a greener environment and a carbon-neutral city of Copenhagen in 2025. 

"Children must not become attitude police"

One of the objectives of training climate ambassadors is for the children to turn their new knowledge into more climate-conscious actions, also in the home. Not everyone, however, is positive towards this form of learning being targeted at children and young adults. The project has been criticised by the Conservative Party's education spokesman at the Folketing, the Danish parliament, Rasmus Jarlov, who is also a member of Copenhagen Municipal Council. He said to the news website 

"This is a very bad idea! The Municipality of Copenhagen must neither dictate students' attitudes to the climate nor train children as attitude police whose job it is to ensure 'correct' behaviour. It has a pungent smell of indoctrination and do not care to see children to school in this way."

If one follows this way of reasoning, all the subjects taught in junior/middle schools could be criticised to the same thing. Treating climate learning as a question of attitude and not as information conceals the fact that improving the climate and the environment are tasks which require concerted action. A more sustainable world can only be realised by sharing knowledge and changing our behaviour, so why not start now with the next generations?

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014