Annegret Thieken (Germany)1; Dierck Julia (Germany) 1; Otto Antje (Germany) 1
1 - University of Potsdam, Institute of Earth and Environmental Science
Cities are responsible for up to 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but they can also be severely affected by impacts of climate change, such as extreme weather events. Hence, cities are important actors in climate policies and many of them have started to develop strategies or action plans that explicate how the city aims to mitigate and/or adapt to climate change.
Although climate mitigation and adaptation have been on the political agenda for many years in Germany, an overview of municipal strategies is missing. Therefore, this study provides a comprehensive synthesis of such strategies while distinguishing three city sizes: big metropolises with more than 500,000 inhabitants, small metropolises having 100,000 to 500,000 inhabitants, and medium-sized cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants that have the same statutory framework than metropolises.
Altogether, mitigation and adaptation plans of 99 German cities were searched and analysed by content analyses. The analysis reveals that mitigation plans are much more common than adaptation plans: 98 cities had a mitigation plan, while only 44 had an adaptation plan by July 2017. With regard to adaptation plans, there is a clear dependence on the city size: in only two (out of 23) medium-sized cities adaptation plans were found. This highlights that climate change adaptation is still a young policy domain: a national funding programme that supports cities to develop adaptation plans was launched in 2015, while a comparable programme for climate mitigation was already established in 2008.
With regard to the contents, measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector and in urban development are the most popular with regard to climate mitigation. With respect to adaptation, planned actions and measures are much more diverse and thus context-specific. It is, however, striking that fields of actions that were identified by national and European policies as being important, such as the health sector, are often neglected in the municipal plans. Hence, more cooperation and exchange is needed between different policy levels. This is further supported by the fact that city networks were identified as an important driver for the development of mitigation and adaptation plans.