How a small Danish municipality is becoming a Global Goals frontrunner

At first glance, the Sønderborg-area of Southern Denmark might seem rather isolated and disconnected from the rest of Denmark. Most of the area is made up of the island of Als which presses up against the Jutland peninsula as if it was knocking on the door to get in. But in fact it’s quite the other way around. With unique access to mainland Europe and strong cultural and historical ties to Germany, Sønderborg has green ambitions far bigger than its size, and climate targets that go far beyond Danish national climate targets.

That is also the reason why we at Sustainia have struck up a partnership with Sønderborg municipality. Within the next three years, Sustainia will help the municipality make the Global Goals an integrated part of everyday life for its 75,000 inhabitants, from nursery schools to nursing homes. With the project titled “Sønderborg Scores Global Goals”, we will involve citizens on a whole other level: not only inspiring them to change their behavior, but also fostering an understanding of the world’s biggest problems – and how they as members of the municipality can help tackle them.

Sønderborg already acknowledges the importance of the 17 Global Goals, but it also understands that if it fails to put them into the context of its own citizens and actively involve them, the goals will fade into oblivion sooner or later. That is the challenge ahead, but Sønderborg and Sustainia are equal to the task.

Carbon-neutrality in 2029

Sønderborg didn’t just casually jump on the sustainability bandwagon, but has planned a green transition for years. 10 years ago, before clean energy became more of a mainstream political issue, Sønderborg municipality founded ProjectZero with the ambitious target of creating a carbon-neutral municipality by 2029. With a strong involvement from local politicians, citizens and businesses, and with the support of big Danish corporation Danfoss, whose HQ is located in the municipality, the project has so far generated a 35% decrease in CO2 emissions and over 800 new jobs in the area, which puts the municipality well on track for their 2029 goal.

One key initiative in ProjectZero are the so-called “ZERO-certifications.” The certification is awarded to local retail stores and businesses that can document energy savings of more than 10%, and ongoing commitment to integrate sustainability concerns into all decision-making. The certifications come in three categories, white, bronze and gold, representing respectively a 10%, 31-50% and 51-70% reduction in energy consumption. (…)

Joachim Marc Christensen


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