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Samsø receives prestigious UN award as global climate leader

Seen by many as the world’s first renewable energy island, Samsø has long been on the forefront of green transition. Now, the island in the sea of Kattegat receives the prestigious UN Global Climate Action Award for its climate leadership and dedicated communal efforts. The award is given in recognition of transformational efforts by governments at national, provincial, state, city or town level that are moving the needle on climate change.

Amongst the highlighted achievements, Samsø has already achieved its goal of reaching 100 per cent net annual balance of renewable energy. Putting the community at the centre of its green shift, the island’s transition has revolved around a series of renewable energy investments, such as installing 21 onshore and offshore wind turbines, four local biomass-fuelled district-heating plants, solar panels and electric vehicles.

Besides improving the community’s long-term perspectives on sustainability, Samsø has managed to demonstrate how renewable energy can be an immediate catalyst to combine business creation, public attractiveness, and effective climate action at the same time. Over the last decades, Samsø’s green efforts have played a key role in creating local growth and improving employment opportunities with new families moving to the island dues to its green brand.

Samsø, however, is far from unique when looking at climate leadership across Danish islands. In 2021, Ærø took home the first place in the EU’s RESponsible Island Prize. The year before, Bornholm, a Danish island in the Baltic Sea, also received the European award.

Related news: Europe’s most sustainable islands are Danish


Green transition in just a decade

In 1997, Samsø Municipality took a political decision to become a renewable energy island within ten years. At the time, the island’s electricity came via an undersea cable from mainland Denmark’s grid, with coal supplying most of the power. Oil was the primary energy source for heating Samsø’s homes and businesses, as it was for virtually all transportation on the island. The masterplan foresaw the installation of onshore and offshore wind turbines, the substitution of heating oil with biomass and electricity, the construction of new district heating plants, solar panels, investments in energy efficiency in households and electric vehicles.

The financing model had participation of citizens and stakeholders and local ownership of the renewable energy investments at its core. By 2007, Samsø was producing enough renewable electricity and had decreased enough the consumption of fossil fuels so that the net annual balance of renewable energy in the local energy mix became more than 100 per cent.

To tackle its remaining greenhouse gas emission Samsø will use renewable electricity to cover heating and transport needs and will explore the option of locally produced biogas and renewable electricity as fuels for the ferries. Through these new investments, Samsø aim to become completely carbon-free by 2030 and will keep inspiring communities and governments around the world to take local climate action and responsibility to address climate change.

You can read in detail about the island’s climate plan via Samsø Energy Academy here.

The article is recap of climate plans ans achievements highlighted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) following the award. You can reach the full description and review of Samsø in the article here.

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