Climate plan: starter pack for a medium city

Coaching Climate Actions 8 min read , March 25, 2020

If your city wonders what are the most impactful climate measures to take, this article comes right on the spot. Prioritising climate actions is difficult, even in a growing city (25k to 200k inhabitants). We want you to help you with that. 🙌 We looked at what measures are done by most of our users, are profitable and have the biggest CO2 impact. Check them out! 👇

gold in hometown

Challenges of a growing city

Challenges of a growing city (between 25k and 200k inhabitants) are unique. At first sight, it seems like a growing city has more resources than a small municipality. However, more departments means more diverse colleagues to convince. Also, bigger cities have more stakeholders and policies to consider. Processes might take more time.

Externally, financing large-scale projects is still challenging. In top of that, growing cities experiment wider ranges of household income. Inequalities tend to increase with the city size, resulting in some sectors of society living in precarious situations. Climate is often not a priority for those sectors.

While in a small municipality households and mobility are the most important emitters, a growing city has a new player: the tertiary sector. The tertiary sector includes for example shops, schools, restaurants and hospitals. Together, households, mobility and tertiary can make up between 80% and 97% of total emissions of a growing city. In this article, we will explore the 'must-do' measures for a medium-sized city with concrete examples and tips.

meeting near a transparent glass

Top measures for a growing city

We want to help you focus on the most realistic and impactful measures. We analysed measures in our database: the most implemented among our users, the most profitable and the most impactful in CO2. The result: a list of measures that can help to inspire and focus on scaling up climate action.

Start from home 👆

Our first advice is to start acting in your own administration. Why? 1) leading by example shows your real commitment and 2) you can start to connect and set an agenda with colleagues of other departments. What measures to prioritise based on euro and carbon savings?

  1. Relighting of own buildings. This measure implies making the lighting of municipal buildings more efficient. Action example: Ostend (70k inhabitants) saves 23k € yearly by switching to LEDs (NL).
  2. Reduction in emissions of municipal buildings. Making more efficient use of the buildings and appliances used by the municipality is possible. Action example: Brugge (118k inhabitants) partners up with a project to decrease the total energy consumption of its buildings (NL).
  3. Roof insulation of municipal buildings. Insulating the roofs of the municipality saves energy, emissions and sets the example to citizens. Action example: Ostend (70k inhabitants) saves 24 ton CO2 yearly by isolating municipal roofs (NL).
  4. Reduction in emissions of municipal fleet. This measure encourages making more efficient use of the current fleet. Action related: employees from Dilbeek (41k inhabitants) swap the car for a bike, setting the example for a more sustainable mobility (NL).
  5. Reduction in municipal street lighting. Public lights are an excellent opportunity to save energy while making it evident. Action example: Vilvoorde (45k inhabitants) gives a park a second look by renovating the public lightning (NL).

Mobility 🚌

Mobility in growing cities is challenging. Moving goods, people and services is often done by using fossil fuels. Additionally, it is common to see cars in the city with only one or two passengers. Our take on the subject? Promoting efficient public transport while switching private transport to soft mobility is the way to go.

Private transport

  1. Modal shift to biking/walking. This means promoting the use of bikes or foot instead of cars. Action example: Hasselt (77k inhabitants) makes it safer to cyclist to park their bikes in the city (NL).
  2. Car sharing. No more one-man-show in the car. Sharing is caring. Action example: Vilvoorde (45k inhabitants) offers a car to be shared with companies (NL).
  3. Reduction of superfluous mileage in traffic. This measure implies the local supply of needs so that less travels are required. Action example: Dilbeek (41k inhabitants) employees bring the information you need at bike (NL).

Public transport

  1. Electric buses. This measure implies the replacement of diesel or gasoline-fueled buses for electric ones. Sounds impossible for a city to have influence on the public transport? Action example: a city in Romania (Turda, 47k inhabitants) replaced its entire bus fleet for electric buses.
  2. Modal shift to public transport (without train). Promoting the use of public transport can be possible from the municipality. Action example: Brugge (118k inhabitants) offers a free bus that goes through the city centre (NL).
This bus stop was a winning design by Ryan Ollson

Households 🏘️

Housing in bigger cities is more diverse than in small municipalities. Often, big apartment buildings make it difficult to undertake large-scale renovations. On the other hand, big houses in the suburbs are frequently old and not well insulated.

  1. Home insulation. Insulating bigger apartment buildings or houses is a different question. Taking a complete renovation is desirable, but probably not financially attractive. Roof insulation is the most cost-effective measure for houses. Wall insulation and floor insulation come in second and third place, and are ideal for apartment buildings. Action examples: Dilbeek (41k inhabitants) offers a platform for visualizing energy consumption, Courtrai (75k inhabitants) gives premiums for insulation, Tongeren (31k inhabitants) organizes info-session around complete renovations (NL).
  2. Purchase of 100% green electricity*. Buying green electricity is becoming the norm for many households. Your city can speed up this process. Action examples: Brugge (118k inhabitants) encourages the group purchase of green electricity for households and Leuven (100k inhabitants) set up a project to massively switch to green energy (NL).
  3. Reduction of electricity consumption by more energy-efficient appliances. Replacing inefficient domestic appliances for more efficient ones can save a lot of money and energy. Action example: Ostend (70k inhabitants) offers free advice to identify the most inefficient appliances at home (NL).

* The purchase of 100% of electricity is not counted in the Covenant of Mayors Scope 1&2 reporting, but it's a crucial measure for promoting clean energy

Businesses 🏪

Bigger cities mean more businesses, and that's great! Businesses typically consume a lot of electricity and fuels for heating. What should be the focus? Increasing the efficiency of energy use (while bringing more comfort to customers).

  1. Relighting. Replacing old lighting for more efficient can also attract more customers to the store. Action example: Courtrai (75k inhabitants) tries out circular lightning for a library (NL).
  2. Improved windows glazing. Action example: Hasselt (77k inhabitants) knows how to reach premiums for efficient glazing (NL).
  3. Roof insulation. Replacing old roofs for better insulation can bring many benefits. Action example: Courtrai makes available thermic pictures to identify what roofs are the least efficient (NL).
  4. Purchase of 100% green electricity. Switching to green electricity has no extra costs and could boost the local production of electricity. Related action: Hasselt encourages companies to purchase solar panels in groups (NL).
  5. Heat pumps. Action example: Brugge offers a progressive premium that starts at 400 € and can go up to 5000 € (NL).

Renewable energy ☀️

  1. PV panels in businesses and municipal buildings. Action example: Brugge (118k inhabitants) seeks to include citizens when installing solar panels in a new stock exchange building (NL).
  2. PV panels in households. Action example: Hasselt (77k inhabitants) offers advice on the potential of solar panels to its citizens (NL).
  3. Residual heating network. Whenever a surplus of heat exists from other processes, using residual heat can be cheap and good for the climate. Related news: Coutrai (75k inhabitants) already deploys a network and several municipalities in the Antwerpen region study this option.
Giant Solar Panel

General adaptation measures 🌳💦

While a small municipality has more room for green, a bigger city suffers from extensive pavement. Lack of greenery or reflecting materials makes the urban heat island effect more adverse. A lot of concretion leads to less infiltration capacity, making the city more vulnerable to floods. Our suggestion for a medium-sized city? Focus on nature-based solutions and make the city cool (er). 😎

  1. Planting trees. The 'must-do' measure for any adaptation plan. Trees provide shade, capture CO2 and make room for biodiversity. What's not to like? Action example: Hasselt (77k inhabitants) seeks parents for trees in the city (NL).
  2. Water permeable soils. Increasing soil infiltration is the best strategy for storms and floods in cities. In practice, this means making streets permeable by using special tiles. Action example: Hasselt brings green to different parts of the city in pop-up containers (NL).
  3. No-build zones. Setting an area for no-building is part of a spatial planning process of a municipality. Instead of buildings, that area can become a place for biodiversity, or even a park. Action example: Brugge (118k inhabitants) purchased 50k m2 of green land (NL).
  4. Cool paving and building materials. The inclusion of reflecting materials for roofs and pavements can help to decrease the heat island effect. Related project: in Madrid, Spain, new buildings consider adaptation to climate change.

Key learnings for medium-sized cities

🏗️ Scaling up is the key. Small-scale pilot projects in the past already delivered solutions. The potential for a growing city is to bring climate action from the exception to the norm. Knowing what measures to focus on, the next question is how to finance large-scale implementation. In this article, we learn how Leuven (100k inhabitants) managed to renovate an entire apartment building.

🤝 Convincing colleagues from different departments is crucial. Pushing an agenda in bigger cities can be difficult. In this article, we bring you concrete ideas to engage your colleagues in the climate story. Long story short: show them the benefits of climate action to their agendas and priorities.

🧑‍🤝‍🧑 Outreaching citizens is a challenge for any city. In particular, those citizens who don't see the benefits of climate. Our advice: don't talk about climate, but about savings and comfort. Climate measures can be an ally in fighting poverty, e.g. energy poverty. Curious to learn more? This article will give you more insights.

📌 The tertiary sector plays an important role in your climate plan. As growing cities seek to boost their local economies, businesses will continue playing a role in climate action. Ever wondered how to best approach them? We got a complete article about it.

Here is the childhood photo series. All the places that stunned me when I was a kid.

By choosing this list of measures and using our calculator in our online tool, reducing 35% of emissions by 2030 is possible. This is is a huge step in reaching the targets of the Covenant of Mayors and bringing a better future to your city.

PS. If your city is smaller than 25k inhabitants, we selected a special package for that case.

☀️FutureproofedCities makes it easy to prioritise, focus and keep track of concrete climate measures. Drop us an email if you want to see in our tool how a fictitious medium-sized city can tackle emissions with our suggested list.

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