Climatic Change

, Volume 122, Issue 1, pp 331-340

First online:

Climate change response in Europe: what’s the reality? Analysis of adaptation and mitigation plans from 200 urban areas in 11 countries

  • D. ReckienAffiliated withCenter for Research on Environmental Decisions, Columbia University Email author 
  • , J. FlackeAffiliated withFaculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), University of Twente
  • , R. J. DawsonAffiliated withSchool of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Newcastle University
  • , O. HeidrichAffiliated withSchool of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Newcastle University
  • , M. OlazabalAffiliated withBasque Centre for Climate Change (BC3)Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge
  • , A. FoleyAffiliated withSchool of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Queen’s University BelfastSchool of Engineering, University College Cork
  • , J. J.-P. HamannAffiliated withCentre International de Recherche sur l’Environnement et le Développement (CIRED)
  • , H. OrruAffiliated withDepartment of Public Health, University of TartuDepartment of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umea University
  • , M. SalviaAffiliated withInstitute of Methodologies for Environmental Analysis–National Research Council of Italy (CNR-IMAA)
    • , S. De Gregorio HurtadoAffiliated withMinisterio de Fomento, Centro de Estudios y Experimentación de Obras Públicas (CEDEX)
    • , D. GenelettiAffiliated withDepartment of Civil, Environmental and Mechanical Engineering, University of Trento
    • , F. PietrapertosaAffiliated withInstitute of Methodologies for Environmental Analysis–National Research Council of Italy (CNR-IMAA)

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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 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.