Climate change response in Europe: what’s the reality? Analysis of adaptation and mitigation plans from 200 urban areas in 11 countries
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- Reckien, D., Flacke, J., Dawson, R.J. et al. Climatic Change (2014) 122: 331. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0989-8
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.