Google to measure pollution in Copenhagen’s streets

A Google car will tour the streets of Copenhagen until the end of 2019, measuring the level of air pollution in the Danish capital.

Google to measure pollution in Copenhagen’s streets
A file photo of Google's 'Digitale Læringshus' in Nørrebro, Copenhagen. Photo: Mads Joakim Rimer Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

A partnership between the city and US tech giant is behind the work to map pollution in the city, providing politicians and researchers with information that can be used to plan potential measures on air quality.

The Google cars will also benefit residents in the city, according to Google Denmark director Malou Aamund.

“This will give individual residents good information. They will be able to plan their route around the city and avoid the most polluted areas,” Aamund told Ritzau.

Copenhagen is only the second non-American city, after London, to use Google to map its air pollution, the news agency writes.

The initiative will smooth the way for improvement of air quality in the capital, said Ninna Hedeager Olsen, an elected member of the municipality’s urban planning committee (teknik- og miljøborgmester) with the Red-Greed Alliance (Enhedslisten) party, via a press statement.

“By working with one of the world’s biggest tech firms, Google, we are as a municipality pushing new methods for measuring air quality in the city,” Olsen said.

“This will put Copenhagen in the lead in the battle to secure the best possible air quality and to give residents information so that they can choose, for example, to cycle on less-polluted routes,” she continued.

Copenhagen is a good choice for Google due to the green profile sought by the city, Aamund said.

“We have looked at which cities are generally progressive on green issues. Copenhagen stands out in this context, both in terms of its innovation and approach to new partnerships,” she said.

Research has found air pollution to be related to the deaths of 550 people in Copenhagen annually, according to Ritzau’s report.

Researchers and politicians will use the data collected by Google to gain a clearer insight into where and how measures should be taken.

Air pollution has previously only been measured at three locations in the city.

READ ALSO: Denmark to label food according to effect on climate


‘We still have a chance’: Danish minister’s relief after Glasgow climate deal

Denmark's climate minister Dan Jørgensen has expressed relief that a meaningful climate change deal was struck in Glasgow last night, after a last minute move by India and China nearly knocked it off course.

'We still have a chance': Danish minister's relief after Glasgow climate deal
Denmark's climate minister Dan Jørgensen speaks at the announcement of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance in Glasgow on Tuesday. Photo: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Ritzau Scanpix

“For the first time ever, coal and fossil fuel subsidies have been mentioned. I’m very, very happy about that,” he told Denmark’s Politiken newspaper. “But I am also very disappointed that the stronger formulations were removed at the last minute.” 

Late on Saturday, the world’s countries agreed the Glasgow Climate Pact, after negotiations dragged on while governments haggled over phasing out coal. 

Denmark is one of the countries leading the phase out of fossil fuels, formally launching the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) with ten other countries and states at the Glasgow summit on Tuesday, announcing an end to oil exploration last December, and committing to phase out coal by 2030 back in 2017. 

Jørgensen conceded that the deal struck on Saturday was nowhere near far-reaching enough to keep global temperature rises below 1.5C, which scientists have estimated is critical to limiting the impacts of climate change, but he said the decision to hold another summit in Egypt next year meant that this goal could still be reached. 

“The big, good news is that we could have closed the door today. If we had followed the rules, we would only have had to update the climate plans in 2025, and the updates would only apply from 2030,” he said, adding that this would be too late. “Now we can fight on as early as next year. This is very rare under the auspices of the UN.” 

Limiting temperature rises to 1.5C was still possible, he said. 

“We have a chance. The framework is in place to make the right decisions. There was a risk that that framework would not be there.” 

Jørgensen said that he had come close to tears when India launched a last-minute bid to water down the language when it came to coal, putting the entire deal at risk. 

“It was all really about to fall to the ground,” he said. “The assessment was that either the Indians got that concession or there was no agreement.” 

Sebastian Mernild, a climate researcher at the University of Southern Denmark, said he was disappointed by the lack of binding targets and global deadlines in the plan, but said it was nonetheless “a step in the right direction”, particularly the requirement that signatories to the Paris Agreement must tighten their 2030 emissions reduction targets by the end of 2022.

“It’s good that this thing with fossil fuels has got in,” he added. “It’s a pity that you don’t have to phase them out, but only reduce.”

He said the test of whether the Glasgow meeting is a success or failure would not come until the various aspects of the plan are approved and implemented by members states.