As sea levels rise and coastal areas experience more frequent superstorms, cities by the sea must learn to cope with excess water. Copenhagen, Denmark is taking a long-term approach to these rising issues.

Leonardson: “We are not just wanting to solve a problem, we also want to create a better city for its citizens.”

Copenhagen pocket park

This forward thinking comes from the city’s climate unit, headed by Lykke Leonardson.

Leonardson: “We are working on a long-term plan to have structures to protect the city that you can close in case of a storm surge so that the city will not be affected as such.”

But to address the flooding that’s happening now, city officials are creating pocket parks – used for recreation most of the time – and for holding water when it rains.

These water-holding areas will be linked – like pearls on a string – by convex streets that are specially designed to direct excess water from park to park, controlling the water and ultimately delivering it to the harbor.

The idea is to slow the flow of water through the city and keep it out of the storm drains to prevent sewage overflow. City leaders are urging residents to help by replacing concrete or tile in their backyards with grass or trees. They expect these strategies will better prepare the city for the changing climate ahead.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media/Jason Jackson.
Photo: Pocket park in Copenhagen (credit: Arne Hansen/The Municiplaity of Copenhagen) (source: Danish Architecture Centre).

More Resources
Copenhagen – Pocket Parks, A Drop of Urban Green
Copenhagen Climate Plan
Sustainability in the City: Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen Climate Adaptation Plan
Tackling climate change: Copenhagen’s sustainable city design
What Copenhagen Can Teach Cities About Adapting To Climate Change
INDEX Award Winner: Copenhagen Unveils Comprehensive Climate Adaptation Plan to Reduce Flooding and Boost Local Economy

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Sara Peach

Sara Peach is the editor-in-chief of Yale Climate Connections. She is an environmental journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American, Environmental Health News, Grist,...