Danish Island Where Everyone is Carbon Negative

Although it’s a rather agreeable place, there’s nothing particularly exceptional about Samsø Island at first glance, but...

Located off the coast of Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula, this former Viking outpost is home to a traditional farming community, best known for producing the country’s first potatoes each year.


Visitors arrive by ferry and as you travel around the largely flat island - by bicycle, if you want to blend in - you’ll see cows and sheep grazing leisurely, weathered farmers driving tractors and the occasional farm dog. This very ordinariness is what makes it so remarkable that, for the past 20 years, Samsø has been a world-leading green energy community.


All of Samsø’s electricity comes from massive community-owned wind turbines, which means that the greener the island gets, the more everyone benefits. Meanwhile, biomass boilers burning local straw meet 70 percent of the island’s heating needs. Put all of this together, and each of Samsø’s 3,724 residents now emits an average of negative-3.7 tons of greenhouse gas per year.


The success of Samsø Island is indicative of broader efforts in Denmark to address climate change. It ranks second in the world (behind Sweden) on the Climate Change Performance Index, and it has succeeded in halving its per capita greenhouse gas emissions over a relatively short time frame. Denmark is home to the world’s greenest city, Copenhagen, and is attributed with coming up with the concept of hedonistic sustainability.


However, Denmark is determined to go much further. With a remarkable political consensus, it has committed to energy agreements that by 2030 will see 100 percent of its electricity generated from renewable sources.


The experience of Samsø Island, and Denmark as a whole, shows that it’s possible to almost eliminate carbon emissions using existing technology - we do not have to wait for some indeterminate future point in which new technology comes to market. It also shows that local communities, with the right leadership and supported by national policy, can drive real change.


Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Tasmania (with a population of 540,000) is now powered entirely by renewable energy. The Australian island state of Tasmania now runs on 100 percent renewable energy, having met its goal to be fully self-sufficient on green energy two years ahead of schedule.

Source: Solved! How Other Countries Have Cracked the World’s Biggest Problems and We Can Too by Andrew Wear.

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