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Climate change response in Europe: what's the reality Analysis of adaptation and mitigation plans from 200 urban areas in 11 countries(Reckien etal 2014). Lecturas recomendadas. Marta Olazabal
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Climate change response in Europe: what’s
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D. Reckien, J. Flacke, R. J. Dawson,
O. Heidrich, M. Olazabal, A. Foley, J. J.-
P. Hamann, H. Orru, M. Salvia, S. De
Gregorio Hurtado, et al.
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Climate change response in Europe: what’s the reality?
Analysis of adaptation and mitigation plans from 200
urban areas in 11 countries
D. Reckien & J. Flacke & R. J. Dawson & O. Heidrich &
M. Olazabal & A. Foley & J. J.-P. Hamann & H. Orru &
M. Salvia & S. De Gregorio Hurtado & D. Geneletti &
Received: 19 June 2013 /Accepted: 15 October 2013
# Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013
Abstract Urban areas are pivotal to global adaptation and mitigation efforts. But how do
cities actually perform in terms of climate change response? This study sheds light on the state
of urban climate change adaptation and mitigation planning across Europe. Europe is an
excellent test case given its advanced environmental policies and high urbanization. We
performed a detailed analysis of 200 large and medium-sized cities across 11 European
countries and analysed the cities’ climate change adaptation and mitigation plans. We
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0989-8)
contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
D. Reckien (*)
Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, Columbia University, 406 Schermerhorn Hall–MC5501,
1190 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10027, USA
Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), University of Twente, PO Box 217, 7500
AE Enschede, The Netherlands
R. J. Dawson :O. Heidrich
School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Newcastle University, Cassie Building, Newcastle upon
Tyne NE1 7RU, UK
Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3), Alameda de Urquijo 4, 48008 Bilbao, Spain
Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge, 19 Silver Street, Cambridge CB3 9EP, UK
School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Queen’s University Belfast, Ashby Building, Stranmillis
Road, Belfast BT9 5AH, UK
School of Engineering, University College Cork, College Road, Cork, Ireland
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investigate the regional distribution of plans, adaptation and mitigation foci and the extent to
which planned greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions contribute to national and international
climate objectives. To our knowledge, it is the first study of its kind as it does not rely on
self-assessment (questionnaires or social surveys). Our results show that 35 % of European
cities studied have no dedicated mitigation plan and 72 % have no adaptation plan. No city has
an adaptation plan without a mitigation plan. One quarter of the cities have both an adaptation
and a mitigation plan and set quantitative GHG reduction targets, but those vary extensively in
scope and ambition. Furthermore, we show that if the planned actions within cities are
nationally representative the 11 countries investigated would achieve a 37 % reduction in
GHG emissions by 2050, translating into a 27 % reduction in GHG emissions for the EU as a
whole. However, the actions would often be insufficient to reach national targets and fall short
of the 80 % reduction in GHG emissions recommended to avoid global mean temperature
rising by 2 °C above pre-industrial levels.
are responsible for 31–80 % of global greenhouse gas emissions (Duren and Miller
2012; Satterthwaite 2008) and they are particularly vulnerable to climate hazards due to their
high density of people, assets, and infrastructure (Hunt and Watkiss 2011; de Sherbinin et al.
2007; Dawson 2007; Butler and Spencer 2010). Cities are also unencumbered by the
complicated international negotiations that hamper climate change action at the international
level (Kousky and Schneider 2003). Thus, cities may prove pivotal for both mitigation of and
adaptation to global climate change (Rosenzweig et al. 2010, 2011; Betsill and Bulkeley
2007). But how do cities actually perform in terms of climate change response? Existing
analyses of urban climate change responses typically focus on large and prominent cities, such
as London, New York or Mexico City, or groups of the world’s megacities, e.g. the C402
The terms ‘city’ and ‘urban area’ are used interchangeably, though definition might vary across countries. We
use data from the Urban Audit, which also refers to “cities” (Eurostat 2013).
The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) is a network of the world’s megacities committed to
addressing climate change through action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
J. J.<P. Hamann
Centre International de Recherche sur l’Environnement et le Développement (CIRED), Campus du Jardin
Tropical, 45 bis, Avenue de la Belle Gabrielle, 94736 Nogent-sur-Marne Cedex, France
Department of Public Health, University of Tartu, Ravila 19, 50411 Tartu, Estonia
Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umea University, 901 85 Umeå, Sweden
M. Salvia :F. Pietrapertosa
Institute of Methodologies for Environmental Analysis–National Research Council of Italy (CNR-IMAA),
C.da S.Loja, 85050 Tito Scalo, PZ, Italy
S. De Gregorio Hurtado
Ministerio de Fomento, Centro de Estudios y Experimentación de Obras Públicas (CEDEX), C/Alfonso XII
3 y 5, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Department of Civil, Environmental and Mechanical Engineering, University of Trento, Via Mesiano 77,
38123 Trento, Italy
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(Castán Broto and Bulkeley 2012; Romero–Lankao 2012; Carbon Disclosure Project 2012;
Johnson 2013). Furthermore, many studies rely exclusively on self-report measures such as
questionnaires and interviewing of city representatives (Carbon Disclosure Project 2012;
Carmin et al. 2012), which might incorporate bias. Evidently, a less subjective assessment
and more representative selection of urban areas is needed to more accurately characterise the
climate change response of cities.
We explore the state of urban climate change response in Europe by way of an objective
empirical analysis of 200 large- as well as medium-sized European cities (Fig. 1;
Supplementary Table S1), which are part of the Urban Audit (UA). The UA cities were
selected by the European Commission, Eurostat and the national statistical offices based on the
following criteria (Eurostat 2010): (i) approximately 20 % of the population is covered in
every country; (ii) national capitals and, where possible, regional capitals are included; (iii)
large (more than 250,000 people) and medium-sized urban areas (minimum 50,000 and
maximum 250,000 population) are to be included; and (iv) urban areas should be
geographically dispersed within countries. The UA cities are therefore a balanced and
regionally representative sample of cities from each country covered and so is our sample of
200 cities. We analyse all UA cities (200 in total) of the 11 European countries where authors
have worked and are familiar with the language and respective urban and climate policies. The
entire UA database comprises 358 cities across 30 pan-European countries (Eurostat 2013).
The 11 countries chosen cover 72.1 % of the EU-27 population and the 200 cities represent
16.8 % of all EU-27 inhabitants (2008).
The analysis provides insights to a range of pertinent questions in urban climate
change studies referring to 1) the regional distribution of urban adaptation and mitigation
plans across Europe, 2) the breadth and foci of their thematic content, as well as 3) the
extent of proposed urban emission reduction efforts and their cumulative contribution to
national and international reduction targets. We gathered urban climate change responses
in the form of strategic policy and planning documents, i.e. approved (by the relevant
municipal authority) and/or published urban climate change adaptation and climate change
mitigation plans. Adaptation plans incorporate actions that lead to the abatement or
reduction of vulnerability to climate change; mitigation plans encompass actions that
entail a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. A document was considered relevant
when it targets the entire urban area or city region and when climate change was
explicitly stated as a motivation for the plan’s development. Adoption of the plan was
not a necessary condition if a draft document or sufficient information about the plan and
its content was available. The document had to be published as a single strategy, a
collection of separate climate change actions was not considered. Sectoral plans, with the
exception of some ‘energy plans’, that were motivated by climate change were generally
excluded (e.g. ‘transport strategies’ were not considered). First, we conducted an internet
search. If no documents were available online, city administration officers were contacted
directly to confirm that no climate change action plan existed or to provide the document.
Thereby, we analysed the plans without relying on self-assessment of city representatives.
Additional methodological detail, such as keywords used, and the full list of mitigation
and adaptation documents analysed are given in Supplementary Methods and
Supplementary Table S1.
The first part of the analysis looks at the regional distribution of urban climate change
adaptation and mitigation plans. Overall, 65.0 % of cities (130 cities) in our sample have at
least a mitigation plan while 35 % have neither a mitigation nor an adaptation plan
(Supplementary Table S2). There is large variability across countries: 93 % of UK
cities studied have a mitigation plan (Heidrich et al 2013), whereas only 43 % of
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and 42 % of Belgian cities do. Most (88 %) of the mitigation plans quantify
targets for carbon dioxide (CO2) or GHG emission reduction, applying either to the
urban area as a whole, the city administration or certain economic sectors. Less than a
Even when legislation requires the development of plans—the legally mandatory Territorial Climate and
Energy Plans (Plans Climat-Energie Territoriaux or TCEPs) of the Grenelle de l’Environnement in France are
a recent example, these can take a while to appear. During 2012, 6 out of 35 French cities in our sample
developed a mitigation plan and four of these also developed an adaptation plan, which leaves 14 cities out of 35
without any plan at the end of 2012. Yet, legislation requires all major cities in France to have developed both a
mitigation and an adaptation plan by the end of 2012.
Fig. 1 City sample, climate change plans, and emission reduction targets for 195 of the 200 Urban Audit cities
(5 UA cities are overseas). Location of urban areas, the availability of climate change plans, and emission
reduction targets are shown for each city. Countries are colour-coded according to the calculated ‘urban-led
target’ for each country, i.e. the population weighted average of urban greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
reduction targets per country (see further down). Cities that have an adaptation and a mitigation plan with
quantitative targets are considered to be ‘climate leaders’. C40 cities are members of the C40-network of the
world’s megacities taking action to reduce GHG emissions. The existence of climate change plans is very uneven
across Europe, with evidence of a North–south gradient, but also variable within countries (Supplementary
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third of cities also have an adaptation plan (28 %). Cardinally, no city has an
adaptation plan without a mitigation plan, i.e. all adaptation documents were
published simultaneously or after an existing mitigation document.4
proportions of cities with an adaptation plan are in the UK (80 % of 30 cities), Finland
(50 % of 4) and Germany (33 % of 40 cities). In 22 % of all cities studied, the mitigation
and adaptation actions are integrated into a joint strategy (predominantly in the UK,
Finland, and France), which increases the likelihood of integration and consideration
of possible trade-offs and feedbacks between adaptation and mitigation policies
(Viguie and Hallegatte 2012; Dawson 2011; Barnett and O’Neill 2010). Overall,
25 % of cities have both an adaptation and a mitigation plan and set quantitative
targets for GHG emission reductions. In the context of our analysis we consider these
cities to be ’climate leaders’. Despite the advanced stage of environmental policies in
Europe these are not plenty.
The second focus of our analysis is thematic content of plans. Figure 2 shows that
most mitigation plans include technological options, such as improved energy
efficiency and renewable energy generation, and energy saving measures. Mitigation
measures typically focus on individual sectors or urban functions (e.g. increasing bike
lanes, efficient heating systems, building insulation), rather than systemic changes (e.g.
zoning regulations or urban planning). In contrast, adaptation measures tend to fall into
the urban planning and development category. Adaptation plans are generally less
concrete than mitigation strategies (for example: calling for more scientific studies,
urban greening or better cooperation of urban stakeholders), albeit they increase their
breadth and focus slightly over time (e.g., the adaptation topics of more recent plans
address a larger number of adaptation categories; see Supplementary Information
Figure S1). Also, it seems adaptation plans are often developed for broader scales.
For instance, there are many regional adaptation plans in Italy and France, and
adaptation to sea-level rise in the Netherlands is managed nationally instead of by
cities (Kabat et al. 2005).
Third, we analyse the GHG reduction targets of plans. In our sample, 111 urban areas
define quantitative, urban-wide GHG reduction targets, which we plotted in a ‘Carbon
Tree’ in Fig. 3. The figure reveals substantial variation in magnitude, baseline and target
year of the reduction schedule, but also many targets aligned with the EU goal of a 20 %
emissions reduction before 2020 (relative to a 1990 baseline). Interestingly, none of the
mitigation strategies look beyond the year 2050, although climate modellers require
emission projections far beyond this point (Moss et al. 2010). National capitals and C40
cities are generally large and prominent cities in a country and have reduction targets, but
not necessarily large ones. Dutch cities are the most ambitious aiming to be ‘carbon’,
‘climate’ or ‘energy neutral’ (100 % reduction target) by 2050 or earlier, though
implementation strategies vary. For instance, Groningen—the most ambitious city as it
plans to be energy neutral already by 2025—aims to do so through an increase in
renewable energies and the planting of trees. Cities in the UK, France and Germany,
which all act within the framework of national long-term targets set by their governments
(see Table 1), tend to be relatively ambitious compared to other countries. However, not all
cities with high ambitions lie in countries with a national target as seen in the Netherlands.
Likewise, an ambitious national target is no guarantee of an ambitious urban target. Every
In one case, the city of Moers, in Germany, a sustainable area management plan was produced—betwixt a land-
use plan and an adaptation plan—through the Local Agenda 21 process in cooperation with the city before the
official mitigation plan.
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country analysed that has a nationally agreed target has cities without a GHG emission
The Carbon Tree provides a visual overview of emission reduction targets for a group of
cities. Formal measures, such as overall or average emissions reduction, can also be calculated
allowing to monitor progress and to introduce benchmarks that ensure meeting carbon
reduction targets. For instance, the average reduction effort of these 111 cities amounts to
1.7 % per year.
The GHG data for each city are attributed according to end-use, i.e. consumption based
emission accounting, as opposed to energy generation or production-based accounting,
enabling some degree of inter-comparison between cities. An ‘urban-led emission reduction
target’, TU, can be calculated for N urban areas using Eq. (1):
where P is the population and T is the emissions reduction target for individual urban
areas. It represents the population weighted average of GHG emissions reduction
targets within the region of interest, i.e. all UA cities of a country in this analysis.
Table 1 shows the results by country and all the 11 countries investigated. Knowing the
population of the 11 countries relative to the EU-27 population the reductions for the
entire EU can also be calculated. Equation 1 assumes that the burden of GHG reduction
Fig. 2 Mitigation and adaptation topics in climate change plans. The figure shows the most frequently named
topics in all of the mitigation (a) and adaptation (b) plans. Lighter gray represents a subcategory
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Fig. 3 The ‘Carbon Tree’ for the 111 urban areas with mitigation targets. Each city is denoted by a horizontal
bar, or ‘branch’. Urban areas from the same country have the same colour. The vertical position of the branch
refers to the magnitude of the emission reduction target in percent, indicated by the scale on the right. The black
boxes on the scale denote all those cities that fall into the exact increment of 10 % that the box surrounds, i.e.
there are seven cities that have a reduction target of exactly 30 %, all encompassed by the upper and lower limit
of the box that surrounds the number ‘30’. The whiskers from one order of magnitude to the next encompass all
cities that have reduction targets between two increments of 10 %, i.e. there are 11 cities that have reduction
targets between 30 % and 40 %. The length of the bar indicates the timeframe of the target, starting with the
baseline that was used for defining the target and extending to the year in which the target wants to be met.
Capital cities and C40 cities are highlighted at the left. They can be used as a cross-reference to Table S1 in order
to locate the position of all cities in the tree, as Table S1 lists all cities in the same order top to bottom. A weak
‘Carbon Tree’ has a dense and wide canopy at the top with many urban areas having low targets over long
timescales. An ambitious and realistic ‘Carbon Tree’ has a dense and wide canopy at the bottom with many cities
having high reduction targets over longer, i.e. more realistic timeframes. The ‘Carbon Tree’ displays overall
reduction targets; interim targets are not displayed
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within each city is shared equally by each citizen and that the sample is sufficiently
representative of the action being taken by the remaining population in each country.
Thus, TU provides an estimate of national GHG reduction action based on ‘bottom-up’
Many capital cities have ambitious targets, relative to other urban areas within their country,
i.e. those where the combined target of all cities is substantially larger than the combined target
without capital. All countries apart from Ireland and Italy would reach their EU2020 GHG
as would the EU as a whole. Crucially, however, there appears to be insufficient
action within cities to meet the national targets of the four countries that set themselves a
national reduction target, i.e. Finland, France, Germany and the UK. The EU would
exceed its 20 % GHG reduction commitment (37 % urban-led target in the 11 countries
investigated translates into roughly 27 % GHG reduction for the EU as a whole), but
would fall short of the 80 % emissions reduction recommended to limit global warming
to 2 °C (see Table 1).
Table 1 Urban-led greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets, EU 2020 GHG emissions reduction
targets and national GHG emissions reduction targets. Table 1 shows the urban-led GHG emission reduction
targets for our sample of 11 countries (EU-11) with and without capital cities—the latter in order to assess the
relative contribution of large and/or prominent cities, and the relative contribution of the urban-led GHG emission
reduction targets in EU-11 to the GHG emission reductions of EU-27
[% of national
target of all
led target of all
cities w/o capitals
per country [%]
EU 2020 targeta
(baseline 1990) and
assigned per country
non-ETS sectors) [%]
Austria 28.6 −21.9 −24.1 −16 n.a.
Belgium 24.0 −23.4 −34.6 −15 n.a.
Estonia 37.3 −16.1 0.0 +11 n.a.
Finland 20.3 −31.3 −16.2 −16 −80
France 20.4 −41.4 −32.5 −14 −75
Germany 22.1 −49.2 −40.9 −14 −(80–95)
Ireland 15.9 0.0 0.0 −20 n.a.
Italy 19.7 −12.5 −14.3 −13 n.a.
Netherlands 23.5 −47.8 −40.4 −13 n.a.
Spain 27.5 −18.8 −8.2 −10 n.a.
United Kingdom 27.8 −58.5 −40.8 −16 −80
EU-11 −37.1 −30.2
EU-27 16.8 −26.7 −20
See footnote #5
The EU2020 targets are specified in the EU’s climate and energy package—a set of binding legislation which
aims to ensure the European Union meets its ambitious climate and energy targets for 2020. These targets, known
as the “20-20-20” targets (or 3×20 targets), set three key objectives for 2020: 1) A 20 % reduction in EU
greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels; 2) Raising the share of EU energy consumption produced from
renewable resources to 20 %; 3) A 20 % improvement in the EU’s energy efficiency. Agreement on the package
was reached in December 2008; it became European law in 2009.
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We acknowledge the limitations of a European study for global policy implications.
However, the European Union is an important contributor to global warming releasing
approximately 11 % of global carbon emissions (European Commission et al. 2011) and has
established some of the most ambitious supra-national targets and policies. Our indicators of
climate change response and climate leadership allow for larger objectivity than, e.g.,
comparisons relying on self-assessment, but they are also rigorous and consequently do not
capture the complexity of the policy processes involved (Baker et al. 2012; Romero-Lankao
2012) Furthermore, climate plans may not include activities within urban areas that are
relevant to adaptation and mitigation but not labelled as such (Castán Broto and Bulkeley
2012). Yet, the adoption of climate change plans indicates awareness of the cross-sectoral
challenges that climate change poses in the urban environment (Heidrich et al. 2013).
Furthermore, structural and/or small-scale but wide-ranging changes often start with a multi-
sectoral planning process (Corfee-Morlot et al. 2011). We also acknowledge that the
extrapolation used for the urban-led emission reduction target introduces uncertainty. Yet,
the accounting methods for the national and urban emissions are consistent, therefore allowing
for comparison of national targets and the TU. Future studies ought to deeper investigate
potential drivers and barriers of plan development as well as of the implementation of planed
actions, which includes addressing monitoring and updating of plans (Heidrich et al. 2013) and
documenting the success of plans in achieving climate change adaptation and mitigation
(Millard-Ball 2012). To gain a better understanding of the global climate change response
and emissions reduction actions we recommend the establishment of an international database
that builds upon this European study. This will require an ontology of mitigation and
adaptation options in order to provide more consistent comparison of the breadth, focus and
detail of climate plans and their development over time. Our analysis provides a first step in
In summary, our study reveals large variation in climate change response across this
representative sample of urban areas in Europe—a variation that is particularly noticeable
across city size and North–South direction. The magnitude of urban GHG reduction
targets varies considerably ranging from 7 to 100 %. If the planed actions within cities
are nationally representative the European Union would achieve its 20 % reduction target,
but fall short of the 80 % emissions reduction recommended to avoid global mean
temperature rising by more than 2 °C.
Acknowledgments Research undertaken for this paper was conducted as part of the European Science
Foundation funded COST Action network Integrated assessment technologies to support the sustainable
development of urban areas (TU0902). D.R. is funded by the German Research Foundation (RE 2927/2-1).
R.D. is funded by an Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council Fellowship (EP/H003630/1). H.O.
would like to acknowledge Estonia’s Ministry of Education for providing resources with the grant
SF0180060s09. We thank S. Schärf, K. Oinonen, S. Reiter, V. D’Alonzo and E. Feliu for their contributions
to data gathering.
Author contribution The study and manuscript preparation was led by D.R. The initial analysis was initiated
by D.R. and J.F. who also led the statistical analysis. All co-authors contributed towards data acquisition in their
respective countries, interpretation of results, and manuscript preparation. Figure 1 was produced by J.F. Figure 2
was produced by D.R. Figure 3 was developed by D.R. and produced with S. De G.H. R.D. is chair and D.R. was
vice-chair of the COST Action network that supported this research and enabled the necessary international
Competing financial interest statement The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.
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