Multi-level Governance and Stakeholder Participation in the Development of Local Climate Plans in Denmark


  • Clarissa Attombri UNESCO Chair on Urban Resilience at the University of Southern Denmark
  • Martin Lehmann Aalborg University
  • Thomas Skou Grindsted Roskilde University
  • Nicola Tollin UNESCO Chair on Urban Resilience at the University of Southern Denmark


multi-level governance, local climate plans, climate adaptation, climate mitigation




Denmark is the first country in the world to have successfully involved all its municipalities in producing Local Climate Plans (LCPs) through a nationwide initiative, the DK2020 Project. The pilot project was established in 2019 with only 20 municipalities by Realdania, one of the most significant Danish philanthropic associations, and was later extended to produce climate action plans for all 98 Danish municipalities. By 2023, all local governments produced their LCPs according to a version of the C40’s Climate Action Planning Framework (CAPF) (C40 Cities, 2020) adapted to the Danish context. The same year, the Region of Southern Denmark created a collaboration with the UNESCO Chair on Urban Resilience at the University of Southern Denmark and Aalborg University to produce an analysis of the CAPs of the 22 municipalities in its territory: the aim is to understand barriers and opportunities to shape its role in supporting to the subregional municipalities in the development and implementation of the plans. In Denmark, regional authorities have a less regulated mandate than in other European countries, creating the opportunity for a Region to steer and facilitate local climate action from a regional/territorial perspective.

The analysis considers document analysis and interviews with municipal climate coordinators. The LCPs and their integrating technical documents are the primary references, and the interviews serve as a complement to gain insights into the internal processes that lead to the production and enactment of the LCPs. Inspired by existing methodologies (e.g., Salvia et al., 2021; Reckien et al., 2023), a taxonomy is developed to structure the data collection into a database to include mitigation, adaptation, stakeholder involvement, and implementation information. The mitigation data is distinguished according to the three major emission sectors - Energy, Transport, and Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use (AFOLU) – that represented the direct local emissions within Scope 1 and were compulsory to estimate, but also sectors pertaining to Scope 2 and 3 - Waste management, Wastewater, Chemical processes, and Other Sectors. For each sector, data is collected on each municipality’s current emissions and estimated emissions in the scenario of action implementation. For the compiling of the climate risk assessments, adaptation goals, and actions, the concept of risk is intended as per the definition of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2014) that determines it with three variables: hazard – which in the analytical framework is represented by flood from different sources, drought, extreme wind, temperature rise, heat wave, land degradation, saltwater intrusion, water acidification, wildfire, and vector-born disease -, exposure, and vulnerability. Stakeholder involvement is requested by the CAPF during the development of the plan, and, in the analysis, it is categorized according to governmental authorities (e.g., neighboring municipalities, national agencies), administrative bodies (e.g., internal departments), funders, civil society, and external professionals (e.g., businesses, consultants). Finally, means of implementation are scanned to check whether prioritization criteria, co-benefits, relevant Sustainable Development Goals, and Key Performance Indicators are transparently enumerated and whether elements such as responsible actors, timelines, funds, and resources are made explicit for every action. 

The initial stage of the work produced an overview of the current local planned efforts, their potential effects, and the key challenges and conflicts encountered in both the planning process and the implementation (Tollin et al., 2023). In the next stage, we are going to engage with stakeholders with focus groups to jointly explore the possible role that the region can play to strengthen local climate action further, creating a space where competing interests can be discussed and resolved.


C40 Cities (2020) Climate Action Planning Framework. New York: C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group Inc. Available at:

Salvia, M., et al. (2021) ´Will climate mitigation ambitions lead to carbon neutrality? An analysis of the local-level plans of 327 cities in the EU’, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 135. doi:

Reckien, D., et al. (2023) ‘Quality of urban climate adaptation plans over time’, Urban Sustainability, 3(1). doi:

IPCC. (2014) ‘Annex II: Glossary’, in: Mach, K.J., Planton, S. and von Stechow, C. (eds.). Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, pp.117-130. Available at:

N. Tollin, et al. (2023) Empowering Local Climate Action: Preliminary Analysis of Municipal Action Plans in the Region of Southern Denmark. Vejle: Region of Southern Denmark. Available at: