Urban Design Contest Envisions a Carbon-Neutral, Car-Free Future

The City of Reykjavík has launched an open design competition to “create a dense, mixed, diverse, and carbon-neutral new urban quarter” in Keldur, an underdeveloped area on the eastern outskirts of Reykjavík. Streetsblog reports that the contest, which will accept submissions until mid-April, is open to anyone—not just professional designers and urban planners—and will be judged anonymously by a team of local officials and international expert advisors.

The finalists from the first round of the competition will receive €50,000 [$53,582; ISK 7.7 million]. The final winner will receive an additional €50,000.

Where is Keldur?

Sandwiched between the neighbourhoods of Grafarvogur, Úlfarsárdalur, Grafarholt, Halsar, and Höfðar, the 288-acre parcel that, according to the Keldur Competition Brief, city officials are dividing into Keldur East and Keldur West, is a 30-minute bike ride away from downtown.

via Keldur Competition Brief

The area is currently served by four bus routes “with stops in the vicinity” but once the city unveils its new bus route and the first phase of the Borgarlína Rapid Transit (BRT) service in 2026-27, Keldur will have much more direct public transportation options to and from the city centre. Officials estimate that travel time on the BRT from Keldur and Lækjartorg will be approximately 20 minutes.

‘Against excessive parking’

While the building of a new residential community on the outskirts of a city might naturally imply high car ownership, “officials are are recommending against excessive parking,” explains Streetblog, and have “already promised to devote 100% of the profits from the development and sale of the land towards bringing frequent bus rapid transit service to residents. More broadly, the contest organizers called on entrants to ‘prioritize the eco-friendliest, most compact, and least cumbersome mode of transportation’ in their designs.”

Brad Toderian, one of the international experts serving on the Keldur competition’s judging panel, applauds the City of Reykjavík’s focus on creating “a truly urban place, not just a better suburb,” one that is “not just a little less car dependent, but that’s truly multimodal.” Toderian says that from a North American perspective, the competition is unique not only in that it accepts submissions from anyone, but also because “it’s more ambitious than North America is usually willing to be in these kinds of contexts.”

Cycle city

In addition to linking to the BRT, the Keldur neighborhood is intended to attract cyclists and encourage two-wheeled transit. The contest brief particularly emphasizes the “importance of integrating the region into the city’s ambitious Cycling plan — the city wants 10% of all trips to be taken on two wheels by 2025 — creating reliable pedestrian connections to surrounding areas, and making sure residents can meet their basic needs with a twenty minute walk or less.”

“BRT has a prime role to play,” says Toderian, “but it’s also about walkability and bikeability; it’s about carbon neutrality; it’s about green building design.”

Read the full Streetsblog article, in English, here. The Keldur Contest Brief (also in English), with information about how to submit a design proposal is available here. Queries about phase one of the project will be accepted until March 17, 2023; submissions will be accepted until April 19, 2023.

Six Million Plants This Year, But Production Still Short of Carbon Neutrality Goal

Iceland needs to rapidly increase its plant cultivation in order to meet the government’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2040, RÚV reports.

Þröstur Eysteinsson, director of the Icelandic Forest Service, says that in order to meet the goal, plant production in Iceland will have to at least double over the next three to five years, and that production capacity will need to increase even more after that. Currently, there is not enough room in local nurseries and greenhouses to meet this demand.

“As the situation stands, our greenhouses are at full capacity,” Þröstur explained in an interview. “Because it’s May, the spring sowing has already been planned out and it isn’t possible to add anything that will be ready in spring 2023, that is to say, next spring. So for any new projects that are coming in, the earliest they could get plants is 2024.”

The Forest Service intends to deliver six million plants this year, says Þröstur, which is equivalent to pre-crash levels of production. “It was around five million last year, and four million the year before that. This is a rapid increase. Then we need seven to eight million next year, which we may not manage, and ten to twelve in 2025.”

Capital Sees Dramatic Increase in Cyclists and Pedestrians

More and more people are choosing eco-friendly modes of transportation in the capital area, RÚV reports. Fifty counters at various points around Reykjavík and the environs show that the number of pedestrians and cyclists has steadily increased over recent years.

On average, the data collected shows that just under 23,000 people have been commuting on foot and bike every day.

Unsurprisingly, weather plays a central role in people’s transportation choices: 10,000 more people were counted walking or cycling in January 2021 than the previous January, but January 2020 was also a considerably worse year, weather-wise. But while there may be an obvious uptick in cyclists and pedestrians in the spring and summer, the number of people opting to travel by bike and foot is still considerably more year-round than it has been in years past.

Number-crunchers can find more precise data from each of the city’s counters on the website Borgarvefsjá, here.

 

Clearing the Air

carbon neutral Iceland 2040

Not long after it signed the Paris Agreement, the Icelandic government set an even more ambitious goal: to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040, ten years earlier than the agreement outlined. Since then, the City of Reykjavík, the National Power Company, and the National Church have all hopped on board, with their own timelines for reaching carbon neutrality by 2040 or sooner. While it seems that Icelanders are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work, they have a daunting task ahead of them.

So how do you make a country carbon neutral? Experts, activists, and decision makers are realising that it’s not one step at a time. Rather, it’s many steps at once, in time with the steps of others – a co-ordinated dance towards a brighter future.

This content is only visible under subscription. Subscribe here or log in.

Continue reading

Landsvirkjun Announces Plan to Become Carbon Neutral by 2025

Today, Landsvirkjun – the National Power Company of Iceland – will introduce plans to become carbon neutral by 2025, RÚV reports. According to Hörður Árnarson, CEO of Landsvirkjun, the company has monitored greenhouse gas emissions closely over the past ten years. Landsvirkjun’s initiative forms a part of the government’s plans to become carbon neutral by 2040.

Emissions  Halved Since 2005

In an interview on Rás 2 this morning, Hörður Árnason stated that Landsvirkjun’s emissions have halved from 2005 when greenhouse gas emissions were approximately 45 thousand tonnes per year. According to Hörður, today Landsvirkjun emits approximately 22 thousand tonnes annually. Most of the emissions can be traced to geothermal power stations, especially Krafla. Landsvirkjun aims to reduce emissions from these sources, while also cleaning emissions.

“The steam is separated and mixed with fluid whereupon it is injected back into the site of its retrieval … it’s not a simple operation and it involves considerable innovation. We believe that such efforts, however, will lead to an accumulation of knowledge that Icelandic engineering firms and others can use to sell to foreign parties.”

A Comprehensive and Costly Initiative

Hörður stated that the operations will be comprehensive and costly. “It’s a big project that we divide into three parts. Prioritisation is key. First, it is important to prevent emissions, which Landsvirkjun has done by adopting an internal carbon price. We’re probably the first company in Iceland to have done so. For all of our projects, we equate greenhouse gas emissions with cost; for every tonne of greenhouse gas emissions we estimate that it costs us approximately $33,” Hörður stated, admitting that the carbon price was relatively low. The second most important aspect of Landsvirkjun’s project is reducing emissions, Hörður added, with carbon sequestration coming third.

Landsvrkjun aims to update all of its cars, machinery, and engines so that in ten years they will be powered by electricity, methane, or hydrogen.

Iceland’s Largest Producer of Electricity

Landsvirkjun’s presentation will be held at Nauthóll at 2.00pm today. The panel of speakers will include Halldór Þorgeirsson, Chair of Iceland’s Climate Council; Kristín Linda Árnadóttir, Deputy CEO of Landsvirkjun; and Eggert Benedikt Guðmundsson, Director of Grænvangur, among others.

Landsvirkjun is Iceland’s largest electricity generator and one of the ten largest producers of renewable energy in Europe. Landsvirkjun operates 17 power plants in Iceland concentrated on five main areas of operation. It is owned entirely by the Icelandic state.

Invented a Carbon Offset Calculator to Fight Flying Shame

An Icelandic PhD student in computer science has created a program which calculates how many trees travellers have to plant to carbon offset their flights. Matthías Páll Gissurarson, a student at Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden, wanted to find a way to get rid of his ‘flugviskubit‘ (flying shame). Originally derived from the Swedish term ‘flygskam’, flying shame refers to the guilty conscience travellers feel due to the substantial environmental impact air travel has. The ‘flygskam’ movement is essentially anti-flight as it aims to get people to stop travelling by aviation to lower carbon emissions. However, flying in and out of Iceland is the only viable option for many, so a calculator such as this can help avid travellers heading to Iceland with calculating their carbon emissions.

Matthías has named the calculator FFCO, the fuel-based carbon offset calculator for flights. The website also provides links to carbon offset projects both in Iceland and the United States where users can carbon offset their travels.

Getting rid of flying shame
“I was buying a flight to the United States and saw that the flight which I was purchasing did not reveal information on how much carbon the flight releases,” Matthías said in an interview with Vísir. More and more airlines have started to offer passengers the option to pay extra fees to carbon offset their travels. “I saw how easy it was to find the information so I decided to create a program to get rid of the flying shame more easily,” he stated. Those using the calculator can now compare the environmental impact of their flight to different flights, as the impact can vastly differ between companies based on factors such as aircraft type or fuel economy, amongst others.

Users input the flight number of their flight leg and receive information about how much fuel the plane uses on the trip as well as how many trees need to planted to offset the environmental impact. Matthías retrieves fuel data information from the flight tracking website FlightAware and seating information from SeatGuru. The carbon offset calculator always uses the most recent information about flights, which get updated regularly.

Head to Matthías’ website to calculate how many trees you need plant for your flight: FFCO, the fuel-based carbon offset calculator for flights

Matthías on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tritlo

[media-credit name=”FFCO / Matthías Páll Gissurarson” align=”alignnone” width=”1024″][/media-credit]

Government Announces Ambitious Plan for Carbon Offsetting

The Icelandic government has announced a plan to increase carbon gains by 50% by 2030. The plan, which will be carried out in the next four years, will focus on carbon capturing by planting trees along with the reclamation of wetlands. The government will invest 2.1 billion ISK (14.7m €, 16.7m $) in the next four years to improve land use and the extent of soil reclamation and forestation. This was revealed in a press conference held outside in Elliðárdalur valley by Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandssson earlier today.

The plan entails projects all around the country which will ensure the protection of the biosphere. It is expected that the climate gain from the carbon offsetting, along with the reclamation of wetlands, will be 50% more by 2030 when compared to the current state. Furthermore, it is planned that the increase will have reached 110% by 2050, or 2.1 million tons of CO2 in total. Along with the carbon capture, measures will be taken to fight land deterioration as well as strengthening local biodiversity by reclaiming ecosystems, such as wetlands, birch forests, willow bushes, and diverse forestation projects.

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir stated: “The Government has placed an emphasis on climate matters, and clearly set the course for Iceland not only fulfilling the goals of the Paris Agreement but that the country will have reached the carbon neutrality goals not later than 2040. The measures we’re introducing today are not least put in place to achieve that important goal. Carbon capturing as well as the reclamation of wetlands are immensely important in the fight against the climate danger.”

It is expected that soil reclamation will double from 2018 to 2022 by operations all around the country, and it is likewise planned to double the yearly extent of forestation in the same four-year period. Operations to reclaim wetlands will be improved significantly, and it is expected that the yearly scope of reclaimed wetlands will go from 45 hectares on average in the years 2016-2018 to about 500 hectares in 2022. To ensure the maximum climate gains, a special emphasis will be placed on operations on land where carbon is being lost from the soil.

Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources: “With these operations which we have introduced we place the main emphasis on a holistic approach where we look to climate change matters and carbon capturing at the same time as we reclaim parts of the natural environment. This entails projects where we recapture previous land qualities, including wetlands and birch forests. There will also be an emphasis on strengthening agricultural forestry.”

Numerous projects will be put in place all over the country in co-operation with farmers, non-governmental organizations, private companies, and municipalities, as well as strengthening projects already in place. A substantial amount of farmers are currently working on soil reclamation and forestation. There are also plans afoot to ensure that farmers pursue more eco-friendly agricultural methods.

New laws regarding soil reclamation, as well as forests and forestation, were approved in Parliament recently. The laws will play an important role in ensuring that carbon will be captured and to ensure sustainable land use.

For a more detailed report, albeit only in Icelandic at this point in time:
https://www.stjornarradid.is/lisalib/getfile.aspx?itemid=f8c0433d-9cca-11e9-9443-005056bc4d74