Klimaatambitie in Middelfart (Denemarken)

- Morten Mejsen Westergaard, Head of Climate and Energy

Think big, start small, learn fast and act together, now.

This is the short ‘to do’ advice for public authorities from the municipality of Middelfart in Denmark. A small municipality, approx. 40.000 inhabitants, on the Island of Fyn, is storming forward in green transition. The municipality is known for its remarkable results in the field of climate change: preventing climate change, but also climate adaptation.

It’s not rocket science, nor big master plans, that characterizes the way they ‘walk the talk’ in their new city council building (which happens to be Denmark’s most sustainable building).

As the mayor Johannes Lundsfryd Jensen puts it:

"We might seem small in a global context. None the less we have to take responsibility. We need to challenge outdated solutions, mindsets from yesterday’s business as usual thinking. Together we make a real effort to address the climate challenge. In our municipality the City Council is unified and has been focusing on green transition for over a decade. That means we are experienced and quickly able to identify and act on good ideas and opportunities for cooperation. We are always interested in dialogue with researchers, knowledge institutions and businesses that wish to make a difference. Yes, we are passionate professionals who want to make a difference."

The Climate Laboratory

The Climate Laboratory is the overall name of a whole host of projects dedicated to addressing the climate challenges in the municipality. The implemented solutions will also serve as exhibitions for inspiration for others. While Copenhagen is the leading example in Denmark regarding city center solutions, Middelfart Municipality is striving to act as a leading example for smaller provincial and local communities in the battle against climate change.

The core idea is to develop and display energy and climate solutions for smaller cities/local communities in a scale of 1 to 1.

The task is linked to education and learning, business growth and urban development.

Through partnership projects and citizen involvement, the mayor and his staff find new solutions in the field of climate change. The municipality thus focuses on co-creation and creation of value in a broad sense (socially, economically and sustainable). With Middelfart as a climate laboratory, the municipality wishes to continue its efforts to develop and implement new innovative, concrete energy and climate projects. To mention a few: the ‘Thermonet’ is the first urban spatial plan using combined shallow geothermal drillings for heat production in low energy buildings. Smart Energy devices have been tested in the project ‘Smart Energy @ Home’ in residential homes with remarkable results, securing the municipality the award for best Smart City project in Denmark. As one of the first municipalities in Europe, we offer climate courses for European school teachers, so they can support climate consciousness and innovation in the school systems.

Political support and initiative
The Climate Laboratory is a signature effort in the City Council’s vision: ‘Where the bridges begin’. The development of the Climate Laboratory will aim for three main goals:

  • making Middelfart a great place to live;
  • making Middelfart the green growth municipality of Denmark;
  • focus on concrete results.

Because the track record has been based upon a very short vision and strategy, things are encouraged to evolve into a real life project.

As the mayor Johannes Lundsfryd Jensen puts it:

 “To be honest, we do not spend a lot of time on making glittered paper plans. In fact, the Council has decided to limit the amount of plans to what is absolutely mandatory. What happens when you remove excess paper is that you can unleash creativity in the organization. And this is what’s important in a modern organization. Our employees are a part of the transition and focus on organizational learning based upon meaningful projects.”

Learning fast – locally and in Europe

The European courses are made for teachers of both primary and secondary schools, who would like to emphasize the aspect of sustainability and climate change in education, focusing on solutions. Topics relevant for all of us, also the younger generation. The courses that the municipality provides give teachers tools and methods to incorporate practise-oriented topics in academic subjects. This will strengthen the students’ motivation in education, teach them about environmental issues and solutions, and give them a relevant and updated knowledge of how to work with UN’s 17 World Goals in education.

How did these courses evolve? Well, at the municipality they take their own medicine and they have been teaching climate and energy in all their schools. The new educational concept in Middelfart Municipality brings together pupils, local businesses and teachers on climate education, based on the companies' concrete issues and opportunities.


A municipality working with citizens

How do we engage with citizens: top-down, bottom-up and other models have been discussed for a long time. However, it seems that the municipality has found its own way of working with citizens. You could call it ‘guided anarchy in fixed directions’. Indicating that citizens most often have the same desires for change as the politicians, but actually prefer action rather than long term planning projects. Therefore, the municipality supports and dedicates time to ideas and projects that are focusing on real-life climate projects. This approach has lead to remarkable projects, such as Denmark’s newest and smallest district heating system, invented, financed and driven by citizens in the village of Føns, as well as citizens establishing a solar PV plant in the village of Brenderup, also upon the engagement of the citizens.

The approach is described in the book ‘Rodskud’, of which the mayor is co-author.

At the municipality of Middelfart visitors are always welcome to discuss and elaborate on ideas that promote and produce green solutions. Welcome to Middelfart.