Aarhus – A City Perspective (REGREEN Urban Living Lab) - Denmark

Aarhus – A City Perspective (REGREEN Urban Living Lab) - Denmark
Area characterisation: 

Biogeographic region: Nordic

Surface area: 790 ha

Country: Denmark

Region/Province: Jutland

Over 90% of the inhabitants have access to green space within 500 meters with an objective to sustain or increase green area per inhabitant through green blue structure planning in spite of densification. The City anticipates a densification with an additional 75,000 inhabitants by 2030.

The water supply company of Aarhus Municipality will invest annually 19 MEUR over the next 65 years to reach full separation of rainwater from wastewater using NbS and NbS hybrids to create a flood resilient city with rainwater on the surface instead of in pipes; Aarhus Municipality has decided to double the total nature area in the municipality by 2030 and increase the area with forested land by 60% by 2030 to ensure drinking water provision and improve recreation, biodiversity, social habitation and health and it focuses on improving accessibility to green areas to all citizens.

Agricultural land and forested land account for under 60% and 11% of the land area respectively, protected areas including water surfaces 6% and settlements about 25%. Environmental pressures: sea level rise, very high groundwater levels, and cloudbursts leading to pluvial flooding events causes disruption as well as economic and social costs.

Pressures from intensive land use practices and urban land cover pose a substantial challenge to meet biodiversity SDG goals. Population growth in a densifying city adds to soil sealing, puts additional pressures on existing urban and peri-urban green spaces, increases demand for recreational green space and adds to the challenge of finding space for NbS to manage pluvial flooding.


In the scope of the REGREEN project, the Aarhus Municipality aims to promote urban liveability, by systematically enhancing and restoring ecosystem services and biodiversity as the basis for Nature-based solutions (NbS):

In this regard, Aarhus aims to improve water quality, water flow management and carbon sequestration

Further objectives include heat mitigation as well as reforestation and renaturing activities of agricultural land to create urban forests, increase biodiversity sites and allow for open urban green spaces for recreation


PRINCIPLE UF-NbS (Urban Forests as Nature-Based Solutions) ACTION(S)

  • Street trees increase number of street trees
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Plan to double the nature area in the municipality – increase the recreational area within the city. On a voluntary basis.
  • Make near-urban forest with biodiversity as focus
  • Green structure/nature areas as a mechanism to increase social cohesion of the neighbourhood and create a climate resilient city.


  • Flood mitigation and green roof
  • Urban heat regulation from vegetation
  • Enhance urban biodiversity
  • Citizen and school project involving, educating and awareness-raising on biodiversity and ES
  • Establishment of climate school involving test of NbS solutions
NbS benefits 
  • Increase infiltration / Water storage
  • Reduce flood risk
  • Carbon sequestration and storage
  • Increase Biodiversity
  • Increase accessibility to green open spaces
  • Increase well-being

Community fundraising:

Growing Trees Network and ‘Plant et træ’ (Plant a tree) are both private initiators who raises money to raise forests in rural areas to protect groundwater (all drinking water in Denmark comes from groundwater) and in the cities to create local green spaces.

Project delivered services and monies raised by project:

Growing Trees Network made a national collection on television in prime time together with the canal DR – the first collection of that type in the world.

City, regional general funds:

Funds for NbS relating to hydro-meteorological risks on public land are administered and implemented by Aarhus Vand (the water utility company) NbS: wetlands, ponds, dams, bioswales, SUDS etc.

Aarhus Municipality can add financing to these NbS that relate to other aspects than hydrometeorological risks (e.g. biodiversity, recreation etc.) from the municipal budget.

At recent budget negotiations the City Council in Aarhus has allocated around 200 DKK million in a 10-year period to for example initiatives to promote a greener city with more blue (=water). This includes every aspect of increasing biodiversity in rural and urban areas, creating a climate resilient city with NbS solutions and so on.

Involvement of citizens, landowners, companies, other authorities etc. are essential to achieve the ambitious goals set by the City Council. There is also a Climate Fond to finance reduction of greenhouse gasses with annually 30 million DKK.

A new project support unit is being established which will receive money to have 3-4 employees for the next four years. After that it should be self-supportive.

The city council also funds Green Projects (1.4 million DKK each year) to co-create nature and recreational projects between local landowners/organisations and the community.

Special funds:

Lokale- og anlægsfonden together with Aarhus Municipality and the Danish Nature Agency investigates how to provide different and more attractive recreation opportunities in the ‘True’ Forest, which is only 30 years old and not very known locally. This will help planning other new forests in Denmark and enhance attractiveness of ‘new’ forests. https://naturstyrelsen.dk/naturbeskyttelse/naturprojekter/true-skov-for-alle/true-skov-for-alle-maalsaetninger/

15. Juni Fonden (June 15, the foundation) has financed a basic analysis of biodiversity before starting up a multifunctional nature and climate project at Kasted Mose, so that the effect of the project can be followed. Read about the area here: https://udflugtssteder.aarhus.dk/geding-kasted-mose/#4

National government funds:

Public afforestation funds with co-financing from water companies and municipalities to buy up land and afforest (approx. 200ha/year nationally) to obtain multiple services such as protect groundwater, sequester carbon, provide recreational opportunities etc. Several projects are on-going in Aarhus Municipality, e.g. in these cities 2020/2021.

Possible to obtain co-funding for nature projects from:

  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Agriculture Agency
  • Nature Agency

The NbS-projects are multiple solutions supporting e.g. nature, climate and health issues and issues in the NbS classes in REGREEN: Hybrid GreenBlueSpace (permeable paving, walkway, roadway and parking); Wetlands (constructed wetland, river/stream, canal, pond, lake, reservoir, estuary/tidal river, sea) and other vegetated urban areas (urban forest, grass/shrub, heathland, other semi-natural vegetation, agriculture). Added values for public health and well-being are also considered.

Private sector investment:

Urban developers are investing in green (NbS) solutions to get a green profile and managed rainwater.

International funds:

H2020 RECONECT (Egå Engsø – hydrometeorological NbS);

H2020 REGREEN (NbS focusing on water, heat, and biodiversity challenges across scales).


People in Aarhus are starting to adopt a green, public space in the city, where they increase biodiversity in the city and contribute with management of the area in using their own spare time.

NbS classification 
  • Parks and gardens
  • Street trees
  • Urban forest
  • Hybrid GreenBlueSpace
  • Wetlands

Team leader of Water and Nature, Technology and Environment: Lene Vinther

Email: leja@aarhus.dk

Further information

The compilation of this case study description has been funded by the Horizon 2020 CLEARING HOUSE project. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 821242.

Sustainable Development Goals 
  • 3. Good Health and Well-being
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
Key Performance Indicators: