Climate plan: starter pack for a big city ๐Ÿš€

Climate Actions Coaching 10 min read, October 25, 2020

Big cities are engines of culture, community, and innovation. They are the natural leaders who can grasp the climate opportunity to enhance the liveability of their citizens. How can they build a climate plan that takes their leadership to the next level?

Climate plan challenges of a big city ๐Ÿ™๏ธ

Big cities (here defined as cities with more than 200k inhabitants) face enormous pressure from rapid urbanization. Land โ€” and other resources such as water or food โ€” are under constant competition. Yet, big cities have what it takes to take the lead on climate action.

Internally (big) city teams struggle to demonstrate climate plansโ€™ urgency and push them through the ever-changing political agenda. In this landscape, competing priorities are always on the horizon. On top of this, big cities have many other plans, policies, budgets... And cross-sectoral collaboration might be hard to seize.

Big cities offer the perfect seedbed for innovation, especially when it comes to their climate plan. Many technological and social innovations are already happening every day in the streets. Yet, city teams canโ€™t keep track of all the innovations and might miss the chance to upscale quality ideas.

Externally, the sectoral climate challenges of big cities are complex. Every big city has its own profile: more industry, more tertiary services, or more tourism. However, there are a clear top 5 sector challenges when it comes to emissions: 1) mobility, 2) households, 3) tertiary, 4) industry, and 5) government. Big cities are natural leaders who can grasp the climate opportunity to enhance livability for their citizens. Our take for the best big cities climate plan: scale-up mature measures and further develop new standards.

FutureproofedCities helps measure your climate plan
Taking the natural leadership of big cities to the next level.

Top climate plan measures for a big city ๐Ÿ“ˆ

Start by scaling up the measures of our starter pack for a medium city. Those measures are mature and bring substantial economic savings to your citizens. Then, let the real challenge for big cities begin. Letโ€™s focus on impactful actions to take your big city to the next level in each sector:

Mobility ๐Ÿšฒ

The focus of mobility in big cities should be simple: connect as many dots as possible. Supply local needs and use soft mobility as much as possible. Public transport is preferred over private transport, and ultimately a technological shift to electric vehicles is advised.

๐Ÿ—๏ธ Scale-up:

๐Ÿš€ Support further development:

(* = measure currently being developed in our database)

Bike Share Rack in D.C. at Mid-day
Soft mobility brings many benefits to big cities when making their climate plan more efficient.

Buildings (households and tertiary) ๐Ÿข

Big cities often face heterogeneous building conditions. One thing is sure: climate plan measures can save energy bills for both households and businesses. Additionally, these measures can bring extra comfort and property value.

๐Ÿ—๏ธ Scale-up:

๐Ÿš€ Support further development:

Bosco verticale 121
Re-greening the cities brings both adaptation and mitigation benefits.

Industry (non-ETS)

๐Ÿ—๏ธ Scale-up:

  • Purchase of 100% green electricity. This measure ensures that an additional percentage of industries (not-ETS) purchase 100% green electricity.
  • PV solar panels in the industry. This measure ensures the installation of photovoltaic solar panels in businesses.

๐Ÿš€ Support further development:

  • Increased efficiency of electric motors. This measure aims to increase the efficiency of electric motor systems in the industrial sector.
  • Smart energy meters. This measure ensures the monitoring and optimization of the processes within the light industry.

Government operations

๐Ÿ—๏ธ Scale-up:

๐Ÿš€ Support further development:

  • Technological shift in the municipal fleet. This measure ensures that the municipality buys new electric cars.
  • Solar water heaters. This measure ensures the installation of a solar water heater in governmental buildings.
The role of the municipality is to set the example and inspire citizens to join the climate plan action.

Adaptation in big cities

๐Ÿ—๏ธ Scale-up:

  • Cool paving and building materials. This measure aims to actively retrofit buildings with materials that reflect the sunlight (light and/or reflective colors).
  • Planting trees. This measure provides for the planting of trees in the built-up urban area. Action example: Barcelona, Spain (1.5 Mio inhabitants) invests โ‚ฌ9 million in a Tree Master Plan.
  • Water permeable soils. This measure aims to reduce soil sealing in existing and newly built environments.
  • No build zones. This measure implies defining unique places where no construction is allowed. Instead, green areas can be developed.

๐Ÿš€ Support further development:

Critical learnings for big cities ๐Ÿ™๏ธ

๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿคโ€๐Ÿง‘ Having everybody on board is vital for the internal municipality and external actors such as citizens and companies. A centralizing tool for climate plans can make a big difference in a jungle of data and programs. Additionally, having comfortable and attractive communication channels with citizens can ensure they are engaged. Read how to involve citizens and how to involve decision takers in your climate action plan.

๐Ÿš€ An ambition that is feasible. By choosing this list of measures with our suggested target, a fictional city of 500k inhabitants could reduce its emissions by 44% by 2030. This ambition level is similar to iconic frontrunner cities such as Stockholm. Naturally, some of our suggested measures require more investments than others. If we bundle them together using a mitigation cost curve, the result is a budget-friendly climate plan.

๐Ÿ’ฐThis climate plan for a fictional city would not only save 1.2 million tons of CO2 but a lot of money as well. Significative investments (โ‚ฌ4 billion) will be needed initially. Still, after 15 years, the net benefits (โ‚ฌ4.2 billion) will surpass the investments, resulting in a net present value of โ‚ฌ180 million that goes to households, businesses, and the city. This way, the climate plan saves our society money while making it more attractive and liveable.

The mitigation cost curve of the suggested measures for a big city. The green dots represent the overall cost of the individual measures (blocks). When the green dots are under or close to zero, the plan is (slightly) profitable.

โ˜€๏ธFutureproofedCities makes it easy to organize, delegate, and keep track of climate plan measures. Drop us an email if you want to see in our tool how a fictional big city can tackle emissions with our suggested list.


Antonio is the Climate Action Specialist at Futureproofed. His specialties include mitigation and adaptation measures research, urban climate adaptation, local climate data, and more. When he's not hard at work helping cities become more sustainable, he can be found cycling across Flemish fields.


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