Expert Interview: Lord Mayor Jensen, Mayor of Copenhagen Mercer had the privilege of interviewing Lord Mayor Jensen, the mayor of Copenhagen. Lord Mayor Jensen discusses his thoughts on the city's success, challenges they have faced, and main priorities the city will have going forward. What have been the most successful initiatives that have truly made a difference in the standard of living in your city? For me it is vital to make sure that Copenhagen remains a city for all. I don’t want a segregated city divided into wealthy and poor neighborhoods. Copenhagen is experiencing rising housing prices, and we want to regulate the market. In Copenhagen, our tool to create a mixed city is to build subsidized social housing, also in the new, attractive neighborhoods. Copenhagen has also set the very ambitious goal of becoming the world’s first carbon neutral capital by 2025. We are already well on our way; carbon dioxide; emissions are down by 40 percent since 2005. I truly believe we can accomplish our goal. We will become carbon neutral with a green transition of our energy production, energy consumption, and green transportation. This gradually provides cleaner air for our citizens and more sustainability for the city. Over the last decade, we have also invested more than 100 million euro in better bicycle infrastructure. With more than 435 kilometers of bike lanes, bridges, and highways made especially for bicycles – including many spectacular biking-experiences like The Inner Tube, The Circle Bridge, and Inderhavnen Bridge. Cycling is an efficient way of creating better space, clear air, less noise, and healthy citizens with a high quality of life. Because of these efforts 62 percent of Copenhageners bike to work or school; we travel more than 1.3 million kilometers by bike each day. As a city decision maker, what have been the key challenges and concerns you have had to overcome to implement ideas, best practices, and improve the quality of living in Copenhagen? Creating a city like Copenhagen has certainly required political vision, determination, and considerable investments. Take our biking culture as an example, which Copenhagen is now world famous for. This is a fantastic achievement. Many cities are now looking at ways to copy our bike-friendly city. This could not have been achieved without the necessary political decisions and investments, which have established our biking infrastructure. If you could provide 3 tips for cities to improve their quality of living for their citizens, what would they be? Prioritizing green solutions, quality of life, and focus on growth. Making green solutions and creating a high quality of life pays off. I think that’s a very important message to send to mayors around the world. Copenhagen’s green transformation goes hand in hand with job creation, a growing economy, and better quality of life. Talent and business attractiveness in a city often correlates to high living standards. Would you agree with this sentence? Could you please provide us with an example/initiative that Copenhagen achieved during the last years? Yes, I agree. As for talent attractiveness, the correlation is very direct. As for the business attractiveness, the link is definitely there but more indirect. An example: We are increasingly doing digital campaigns to attract international talent. It is clear that what drives the interest of the talents is our soft values and features. A good work-life balance and an attractive city environment such as the opportunity to bike to work, take a swim in the city harbor, and free and competent healthcare are decisive factors. During the past year, our talent attraction campaigns highlighting these issues have gathered massive attention to our capital region, Greater Copenhagen. Within business attraction, the link between investments and high living standards is more indirect. Companies tend to go where talents go. And if life quality is driving the choice of talents it will also affect business location decisions. High living standards is a direct factor for businesses too, but more so is concrete business opportunities and cost effectiveness. All in all, yes, high living standards, soft values, and life quality is an important factor for city attractiveness. What would are the main priorities for Copenhagen in the next 20 years? For me, it is vital to make sure that Copenhagen remains a city for all. I don’t want a segregated city divided into wealthy and poor neighborhoods. Therefore, my main priorities are affordable housing, high-quality public schools, clean air, and a high-quality everyday life for all Copenhageners. Looking ahead, the plan is to make Copenhagen even greener, more liveable, and more biking-friendly. This would for instance mean more green space as well as building even more bicycle lanes and new bridges to make even more Copenhageners chose the bike over the car. Is there any city (or cities) which you acknowledge as having done a lot towards improving the living standard of their residents and citizens over the past decades? Paris has a strong focus on tackling pollution, securing better air quality, better conditions for biking, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and fewer cars in the city. In Copenhagen we share their vision on green mobility, livability, and innovation to build healthier and more sustainable cities. The efforts in New York in relation to cloudbursts and storm-surges is also inspiring. Copenhagen and New York continuously inspire each-other, also on this very important topic. In few words how would you describe Copenhagen? Copenhagen is world famous for its biking culture, and was recently named the world’s best biking city, which we are very proud of. Cycling is a way of life in Copenhagen and we continuously try to make the best possible city for biking. Copenhagen is also continuously rated among the most livable cities in the world and is one of the greenest cities in the world. Copenhagen is also a very safe place to live and we have excellent public transportation. We achieved this position, because we believe that growth, livability, and sustainability go hand in hand. Also see answer to question 5. Photo courtesy of Steen Brogaard Photography.