Glossary Term


20-20-20 targets

In March 2007 the EU’s leaders endorsed an integrated approach to climate and energy policy that aims to combat climate change and increase the EU’s energy security while strengthening its competitiveness through:
  • a reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions of at least 20% below 1990 levels
  • 20% of EU energy consumption to come from renewable resources
  • a 20% reduction in primary energy use compared with projected levels, to be achieved by improving energy efficiency.

Aalborg Commitments

The Aalborg Commitments are a set of shared commitments to be jointly implemented by local governments across Europe. The Aalborg Commitments document consists of two parts: the general commitments to be signed, and the annex on suggested targets as inspiration for the target setting process.

In 2004, at the Aalborg +10 conference, the commitments were formulated to inspire and engage European cities to work seriously and responsibly for a local sustainable development.

The Aalborg Commitments contains 10 themes which are all related to the European Commission's sustainability strategy. In this strategy, local municipalities are encouraged to join the Aalborg Commitments. The commitments encourage action on the areas that the local municipalities find most challenging. Targets and actions are defined by the local municipalities who commit to tell report widely about their goals and results.

Aarhus Convention

The convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters was adopted at Fourth Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe" in Aarhus, Denmark, on 25 June 1998. Objective of the Convention is to contribute to the protection of the right of every person of present and future generations to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being, each Contracting Party to this convention shall guarantee the rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.

Action plan

The action plan is broken down from the strategic programme with a perspective of 1-3 years. It should display short-term targets derived from long-term targets and set out measures to fulfil both. The action plan should also clearly define the allocation of human and financial resources as well as the responsibilities for implementation. The action plan lists all actions/ measures that have to be undertaken in order to meet the targets set in the (Climate) strategic programme. There are two stages of the Action Plan in the IMS: the Generic Action Plan and the Refined Action Plan.


Initiatives and measures to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems against actual or expected climate change effects. Various types of adaptation exist, e.g. anticipatory and reactive, private and public, and autonomous and planned. Examples are raising river or coastal dikes, the substitution of more temperature-shock resistant plants for sensitive ones, etc. (IPCC 2007).

Adaptive capacity

The ability of a system to adjust to climate change (including climate variability and extremes) to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences (IPCC 2007). Adaptability is the capacity of actors in a system to influence resilience.

Audit (internal/ external)

An audit is the evaluation of an organisation, process, project or the results. In the IMS the Audit evaluates the measures, progress made in the framework of the climate strategy as well as the process resp. Procedures of the IMS. There exist two forms of audits: The internal audit is undertaken by a person or team in the organisation/ administration that is not directly involved in the implementation process. The external audit is conducted by a third party outside the organisation, such as the EMAS or ISO 14001. It can also be preformed as a peer-review.

Base year

The base year is the reference year used for an emissions reduction target. For example, the EU with it’s 20-20-20 targets has announced to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in EU by at least 20% below 1990 levels (as base year), by 2020.


The baseline (or reference) is the state against which change is measured. It might be a ‘current baseline’, in which case it represents observable, present-day conditions. It might also be a ‘future baseline’, which is a projected future set of conditions excluding the driving factor of interest. Alternative interpretations of the reference conditions can give rise to multiple baselines. (IPCC, 2007.)

Baseline energy inventory

A Baseline Energy Inventory is the part of the BR that refers to the Energy consumption patterns in a given organisation. It should include all volumes and expenses for all types of energy used in all municipal departments and operations, including for example shared services (e.g. schools, sewer, waste); as well as the carbon dioxide emissions from that energy use.

Baseline review (process)

The Baseline Review is the first step of the Integrated Management System. The BR is to analyse the present sustainability condition of the city as well as the condition of the management system itself (System Review). It is also an analysis of the pressures that have led to the current situation as well as the impacts those pressures have on various parts of the society, economy and environment, as well as the policies and measures already in place.
The BR is a regularly repeated part of the IMS which should be conducted by a cross-sectoral working group. The BR should map legal requirements, data regarding all significant aspects, emerging issues and trends, political priorities, departments and external organisations involved, existing instruments and systems, risks and opportunities. The BR is renewed at least once in an election period or more often if the evaluation either suggests significant deviation from targets or surrounding conditions have changed substantially as new trends and information emerged.

Baseline review (document)

The Baseline Review Report constitutes the agreed result of the analysis’ carried out in the step Baseline Review in written format. It outlines priorities for the following work step ‘Target Setting’. The Baseline Review Report is public. The document might contain information organized in a narrative, graphic, or tabular form.


A measurement of the quality of an organization's policies, products, programs, strategies, etc., and their comparison with standard measurements, or similar measurements of its peers.
The objectives of benchmarking are (1) to determine what and where improvements are called for, (2) to analyze how other organizations achieve their high performance levels, and (3) to use this information to improve performance.

Carbon neutrality

The term carbon neutral refers to a zero sum calculation of carbon emissions for any process, product, business, system, person, or even country. In other words, something that is carbon neutral, also referred to as having a net zero carbon footprint or climate neutral, offsets as many carbon emissions as it emits. Carbon neutrality doesn’t refer only to carbon dioxide emissions but to any greenhouse gas emission that contributes to global warming, usually measured in carbon dioxide equivalence.

Climate Adaptation Strategy

The Climate Adaptation Strategy forms part of the Climate Strategy and outlines how the city intends to build resilience to climate change and other non-climate aspects, stating mid-and long-term objectives. Based on this, the focus of the city’s approach is decided after considering a set of alternatives, and based on local preferences.

The Climate Adaptation Strategy includes a general plan of action for addressing the impacts of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. It may include a mix of policies and measures. Depending on the circumstances, the strategy can be comprehensive addressing adaptation across sectors, regions and vulnerable populations, or it can be more limited, focusing on just one or two sectors or regions (adapted from UNDP, 2004).

Climate baseline review

The Climate Baseline Review is a specified sectoral Baseline Review focusing on a city’s climatic situation and a local government’s climate policy. At the outside of a Climate Baseline Review process, the scope of the activities needs to be specified. It may address Mitigation and/or Adaptation and may content different elements such as Baseline Energy Inventory, Baseline Emission Inventory, Vulnerability Assessment.

Climate Change

Climate change refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. This usage differs from that in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which defines ‘climate change’ as: ‘a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods’. See also climate variability. (IPCC, 2007)

Climate Mitigation Strategy

The Climate Mitigation Strategy forms part of the Climate Strategy and outlines how the city intends mitigate its GHG emissions. Following the EU 20-20-20 targets, the strategy would include objectives and actions addressing reduction of GHG emissions, increase in renewable energy sources, and an increase in energy efficiency. Might also be called Sustainable Energy Action Plan (refer to the Covenant of Mayors).

Climate Strategy

The Climate Strategy constitutes the specification of the Strategic Programme to reflect the local government’s climate policy. It outlines how the city intends to mitigate its GHG emissions and adapt to the irreversible consequences of climate change.

Climate threats

Urban areas and cities in Europe face different threats. Further to socio-economic stresses as discussed above, cities face climate threats. Some of the most relevant are:

  • temperature increase leading to heat waves and – more particular to medium and large cities – urban heat island effects;
  • sea level rise leading to storm surges and salt water intrusion;
  • heavy precipitation leading to fluvial and urban drainage floods;
  • storms (wind, rain, thunder and snow storms) leading to floods and physical damage to infrastructure;
  • decreased precipitation leading to water scarcity and droughts;
  • climate impacts leading to natural disturbances, e.g. wildfires, pests;
  • climate impacts leading to earth movements (landslides, erosion); and
  • climate impacts leading to increased human diseases.

(Cities and quality of life background paper. Brussels.)

Common good

A common good describes a specific "good" that is shared and beneficial for all (or most) members of a given community, in this case the environment.

Communication and Involvement

Communication & Involvement is one of two cross-cutting elements throughout the steps of the cycle. From the very beginning of the cycle, it is important to carefully plan who is involved in the process and what they can contribute. Communication and involvement with stakeholders refers to the process of entering into a dialogue with citizens, local organizations and private enterprises. “Through consultation and consensus-building, local authorities would learn from citizens and from local, civic, community, business and industrial organizations and acquire the information needed for formulating the best strategies” (Source: UN Commission of Social and Economic Affairs: Agenda 21. Section III, Chapter 28). Getting as many relevant actors activated as possible will make the effort a common interest and is thereby more likely to succeed.

COP (in this document refers to: UNFCCC COP)

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (see UNFCCC) meetings held each year. The COP is made up of environment ministers who meet once a year to negotiate on climate change. The next COP will be COP18 held in Qatar in 2012.

Council Approval

The council approval is the official approval of the climate strategy by the council. It is done by majority vote. It mandates the local administration to implement the climate strategy and ensures sufficient resourcing of related activities and actions. The approval is to be considered a self-commitment of the council to integrate climate into their decision making and the local development.

Covenant of Mayors

An EU initiative that attracts mayors of Europe's most pioneering cities in the field of energy to join a network to exchange and apply good practices to improve their energy efficiency and promote low-carbon business and economic development. The development of the Covenant of Mayors was supported by the Directorate General Transport and Energy (DG TREN) of the European Commission (EC).

Direct aspect

Direct environmental aspects are defined as activities, products and services being under direct supervision, for example by the municipality.


EMAS (Eco Management Audit Scheme) is a voluntary initiative established by the European Commission and intended to improve companies’ environmental performance. Its aim is to recognise and reward those organisations that go beyond minimum legal compliance and continuously improve their environmental performance.

Energy autonomy

Independence in energy for heat, power and mobility by using renewable, local energy resources in combination with a reduction in demand by energy efficiency and energy saving measurements.

EU Climate and Energy package

In January 2008 the European Commission proposed binding legislation to implement the 20-20-20 targets. This ‘climate and energy package’ was agreed by the European Parliament and Council in December 2008 and became law in June 2009.

Evaluation & Reporting

Evaluation and reporting is the last step of the cycle, but provides the basis for starting a new year with a new cycle. It analyses what has happened during the year in order to understand why things happened or failed to succeed. It provides the politicians with a basis for taking further decisions on the targets and actions for the next year. It provides the stakeholders, including the public, with a report on what the city has done during the year and how they have succeeded in fulfilling their targets. The importance of this step is the actual city council decision on how to act on the results of the evaluation process. How will the knowledge gained be used to adapt or set the short-term targets for the next year? What actions should be implemented next year? Is there a need to revise the baseline review because of major changes in the city or its surroundings? In any case, a decision should be taken and a new annual cycle should begin.

Generic Action Plan

The Generic Action Plan is, like the Strategic Programme, accepted by the Council. The generic action plan presents a sectoral (systemic) description of measures to be implemented to achieve the strategic orientation. The action plan should refer to the same time period as the strategy and suggest measures in the near future, as well as in the longer term. The Generic Action Plan is to be refined at the outset of the phase Implementation & Monitoring (refer to Refined Action Plan).

GHG emissions inventory

A greenhouse gas inventory is a detailed itemised report accounting of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted to or removed from the atmosphere over a period of time. Policy makers use inventories to track emission trends, develop mitigation strategies and policies, and assess progress. An inventory is usually the first step taken by entities that want to reduce their GHG emissions. An inventory can help local governments:
  • Identify the greatest sources of GHG emissions within their jurisdiction
  • Understand emission trends
  • Quantify the benefits of activities that reduce emissions
  • Establish a basis for developing a local action plan
  • Track progress in reducing emissions
  • Set goals and targets for future reductions

Good governance

Good governance refers to the management of government in a manner that is essentially free of abuse and corruption, and with due regard for the rule of law. It is characterised by participation, transparency, accountability, rule of law, effectiveness, equity, etc.


A physically defined climate event with the potential to cause harm, such as heavy rainfall, drought, flood, storm and long-term change in mean climatic variables such as temperature (UNDP, 2004).
It is a threatening event, or the probability of occurrence of a potentially damaging phenomenon within a given time period and area (Source: EEA). Hazards are measured in temperature, precipitation, sea level rise, extreme events, drought, heavy rainfall, wind and storms.

Impact Assessment

It assesses the possible positive or negative impacts, side-effects, and rebound effects that a proposed project/ strategy may have.

Implementation and monitoring

With the implementation of the climate strategy and the action plan, the management cycle reaches its very core: all the preceding assessment, target setting and planning has the overall objective of improving the way the city functions in terms of sustainable development. Turning measures outlined in the action plan into projects requests a proper project planning including work-plan, roles and responsibilities for an individual action. These projects might be of different character depending on the issue and the target to reach, e.g. infrastructure projects, construction and design measures, land-use or mobility plans, procurement measures, information and awareness raising campaigns etc.

In parallel, the implementation of the strategic programme and its action plan should be monitored in an appropriate way and fed back to the politicians. It allows for being able to see if actions are implemented with good results. This suggests, that monitoring has two aspects, the implementation of actions and their impacts. The latter – environmental impacts - will in some cases only display in longer periods.

Indicator (mitigation/ adaptation)

In general, these indicators help the council to define and measure environmentally relevant processes in the field of adaptation and mitigation. While mitigation indicators, such as greenhouse gas emissions or energy use are quite straight forward, adaptation indicators are still in the making. Even though there doesn’t exist an agreed set of indicators for adaptation at the moment, European research is currently working on filling this gap.

Indirect aspect

Indirect environmental aspects are related to those activities of the municipal administration that it does not control completely, but that it can influence to a certain extent. Indirect environmental aspects can result from a municipal administration’s interactions with third parties, in particular citizens.

Integrated Management System

The Integrated Management System (IMS) is a cyclical, integrated five step management system, which supports local governments in gradually advancing their level of sustainability, while at the same time making sure sustainability stays on the local agenda.

Involvement strategy

A plan how to integrate stakeholders and/or citizens into a decision making process. Hereby involvement can have different intensities, from information via communication to consultation of the involved persons. A strategy normally combines different involvement methods, which need to be carefully chosen depending on the aim and the purpose of the involvement process.

ISO 14001

ISO 14001 was first published as a standard in 1996 and it specifies the requirements for an organisation's environmental management system. It applies to those environmental aspects over which an organisation has control and where it can be expected to have an influence.

Local Agenda 21

Local Agenda 21 is a local-government-led, community-wide, and participatory effort to establish a comprehensive action strategy for environmental protection, economic prosperity and community well-being in the local jurisdiction or area. This requires the integration of planning and action across economic, social and environmental spheres. Key elements are full community participation, assessment of current conditions, target setting for achieving specific goals, monitoring and reporting.

Local Agenda 21 is conceptualized in chapter 28 of Agenda 21, which was adopted by 178 governments at the 1992 Rio Conference. Agenda 21 recognised that many environmental problems can be traced back to local communities and that local governments have an important role to play in implementing environmental programs and gathering community support.

Local Energy Action Plan (LEAP)

A Local Energy Action Plan (also Sustainable Energy Action Plan, SEAP) complements a Climate Strategy. It supports local governments in decision-making for integrated energy management, climate protection actions and securing local energy supply. It is developed to establish objectives and identify the priorities, initiatives and actions that are necessary in the short, medium and long term in the energy sector.

Managerial Directive

Definition of tasks and competences for the position of the coordinator(s) and the Internal Auditor of the IMS. It includes the authority to request the necessary information /contributions from other departments in order to achieve the objectives of the IMS. Managerial directives should have a binding character and therefore be approved by the mayor or the city council.

Minimum Requirements

The organisation needs to meet criteria regarding content and process in order to obtain the EMAS or ISO 14001 certification. As IMS is currently not a certifiable standard, IMS minimum requirements are based on EMAS and ISO 14001 plus requirements developed within the Managing Urban Europe and CHAMP Initiatives.


An anthropogenic intervention to reduce the anthropogenic forcing of the climate system; it includes strategies to reduce greenhouse gas sources and emissions and enhancing greenhouse gas sinks. (IPCC, 2007)


Supervising activities in progress to ensure they are on-course and on-schedule in meeting the objectives and performance targets.

Monitoring data

Data acquired during the monitoring process. See more under Monitoring.

Monitoring Programme

The monitoring programme is the description of the monitoring process according to the agreed targets based on defined indicators. It includes information in regard of techniques used, frequency of monitoring, documentation, data manipulation, data ownership and data processing. It is part of the IMS process documentation.

Organisational set-up

Organisational set-up is one of two cross-cutting elements throughout the steps of the IMS-cycle. It is a framework, typically hierarchical, within which an organization arranges its lines of authority and communications, and allocates rights and duties. Lines of authority and communications, rights and duties within the IMS. A well-functioning organisational setup of the management system will exert decisive impact on the success of the undertaking. Strong organisational management is needed to keep the extensive entity of a city and the great number of stakeholders together and in a common course towards a more sustainable urban area.

Partnership Agreement

A written agreement between two or more individuals/ organisations who join as partners to carry out a project, programme or strategy. Among other things the agreement states the resources contributed by each partner, their responsibilities, roles and rights.

Peer-to-peer review

The Peer-to-Peer review is a process used for checking the work performed by one's equals (peers) to ensure it meets specific criteria. Peer review is used by many local governments in European-wide projects because it is thought that peers can identify each other's errors quickly and easily, speeding up the time that it takes for mistakes to be identified and corrected.

Political Commitment

Political commitment is the third step of the IMS. Its objective is to set up a Council debate and achieve a resolution that mandates the implementation of the climate strategy and its resulting action plan. The Climate Strategy is and has to be a politically mandated document. Political commitment is pivotal and needs to be secured throughout the entire process. Political commitment should be seen as a driving force that stimulates the management cycle.

Priority Setting

Priority setting takes its reference in the scope of the management system and is based on the findings of the baseline review. It is the step right before the actual target setting. Priorities should follow the idea of being the first step of a longer journey towards the agreed vision of a resilient city. Priorities frame the focus of the Council’s work and are reflected by the Climate Strategy. Depending on personnel, financial and natural resources, an agreed number of priorities or – if there are several equally urgent ones - the high-level priorities will then be addressed by the Action Plan.

Procedural regulation

Priority setting takes its reference in the scope of the management system and is based on the findings of the baseline review. It is the step right before the actual target setting. Priorities should follow the idea of being the first step of a longer journey towards the agreed vision of a resilient city. Priorities frame the focus of the Council’s work and are reflected by the Climate Strategy.

Depending on personnel, financial and natural resources, an agreed number of priorities or – if there are several equally urgent ones - the high-level priorities will then be addressed by the Action Plan.
All relevant procedures within the five steps of the IMS, should be clearly defined by procedural regulations in order to establish binding areas of competency and transparent data and information flows. Procedural regulations are the back bone of the organization’s set up and should be approved by the mayor and/or the City Council.

Quantitative data

Quantitative data is information that can be counted and measured. Quantitative environmental data focuses on actual environmental improvements, such as the amount of waste reduced or energy saved. Mechanisms for collecting quantitative environmental data are usually programme-specific, such as using water meters to measure actual hot water consumption and energy use.

Refined Action Plan

Whilst the generic action plan serves as operational foundation for implementing the Council’s Climate Strategy, it needs refinement e.g. in regard of assignment of tasks, allocation of resources, work- and time-planning of individual actions. The refined action plan is an updated and more specific version of the generic action plan. The purpose of refining an existing action plan is to make it fit to the actual situation and enable a most effective and efficient implementation of the projects and the climate strategy.


The ability of a social or ecological system to absorb disturbances while retaining the same basic structure and ways of functioning, the capacity for self‑organisation, and the capacity to adapt to stress and change. (EEA report 2004)

Becoming resilient is a process that demands continual improvement. This process is adaptive because it aims at a continual improvement of the decisions taken (e.g. in rethinking urban planning, in increasing local renewable energy supply, or in putting alert systems into operation) and the actions implemented. These require regular and effective monitoring and evaluation. The uncertainty of future developments in climate change and its implications are managed by becoming more flexible through robust, no- and low-regret actions and through periodical monitoring.

Resilient city

A city that supports the development of greater resilience in its institutions, infrastructure, and social and economic life. Resilient cities reduce vulnerability to extreme events and respond creatively to economic, social and environmental change in order to increase their long-term sustainability. Resilient city activities are sensitive to distinctive unique local conditions and origins. Efforts undertaken to prevent crisis or disaster in one area should be designed in such a way as to advance the community’s resilience and sustainable development in a number of areas. As such, resilient cities define a comprehensive ‘urban resilience’ concept and policy agenda with implications in the fields of urban governance, infrastructure, finance, design, social and economic development, and environmental / resource management. (Source: ICLEI)


The combination of the probability of an event and its consequences (UNISDR, 2009). Risk can also be considered as the combination of an event, its likelihood, and its consequences, i.e., risk equals the probability of climate hazard multiplied by a given system’s vulnerability (UNDP, 2004).
OR: Risk is defined as the product of hazards or potential impacts, vulnerability and adaptive capacity, as well as a combination of likelihood of an occurrence and the consequence of that occurrence.

Scope of emissions

There are three scopes of emissions:
  • Scope 1 - Direct GHG emissions are emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by the company. For example, emissions from combustion in owned or controlled boilers, furnaces and vehicles.
  • Scope 2 - Accounts for GHG emissions from the generation of purchased electricity by the company.
  • Scope 3 - Optional reporting category that allows for the treatment of all other indirect emissions. They are a consequence of the activities of the company, but occur from sources not owned or controlled by the company. Some examples include third party deliveries, business travel activities and use of sold products and services.

Significant climate aspect

A significant environmental aspect means an environmental aspect that has or can have a significant environmental impact.


A person, group or organization that has a direct or indirect interest in an enterprise or project. The primary stakeholders in a typical project are its investors, employees, customers and suppliers. However, modern theory goes beyond this conventional notion to embrace additional stakeholders such as the community, government and trade associations.

Strategic programme

The Strategic Programme presents a common vision for the future development of the city should be established in a participatory process. It has a long-term orientation offering goals for a period of 15-20 years balancing the environmental, social and economic dimensions. The vision should be reachable and inspiring, and should find its point of departure in the priorities to find a suitable scope. The SP is the document that sets mid-term targets and measures for the agreed priorities. The priorities should be described using indicators as the main tool of communication within the IMS. Based on indicators, measurable and time-related targets are formulated and balance and integrate the environmental, social and financial resources. If there are missing data in the baseline review, the strategic programme should include measures to create these reference data and the corresponding indicators. The Strategic Programme should be supplemented by a Generic Action Plan and also include a mandate for the IMS.

Sustainable Energy Action Plan

See Local Energy Action Plan

Sustainability Report

A sustainability report is an organizational report that gives information about economic, environmental, social and governance performance. This report compiles the local government’s achievements compared to the established targets. It serves as a balance of the local government’s commitments and targets and at the same time offers a foundation for reconsidering the political strategies and priorities.

Sustainability/ Climate Report

The evaluation report results from an internal evaluation, audited by a third party or, at least, peer-reviewed. The report should, then, be assessed by stakeholders, before being ultimately agreed to and endorsed by politicians. This process creates a transition to start a new management cycle.

SWOT analysis

SWOT analysis is a tool for auditing an organization and its environment. It is the first stage of planning and helps local governments to focus on key issues. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors. Opportunities and threats are external factors.

System review

The system review is that part of the Baseline Review that addresses the organisation of the management system itself. It identifies and reviews all relevant management systems and procedures in place and takes into account general organisational structures and procedures. Among them are: regular exchange of information between heads of departments, procedures related to financial control and management of the local government’s household budget.

Target Setting

Target Setting is the step of the IMS to prepare the strategic programme and action plan. It is based on the baseline review and its analysis of priorities to be focused on during the following management cycle period and beyond.
The step results in a common vision for the future development of the city should be established in a participatory process. It has a long-term orientation offering goals for a period of 15-20 years balancing the environmental, social and economic dimensions. The vision should be reachable and inspiring, and should find its point of departure in the priorities to find a suitable scope. The vision is formalised in a Draft Strategic Programme.


The vision or leitmotiv represents the overall aim a local government tries to achieve over time. It is generally rather broad and doesn’t contain specific targets. An example for a catchy vision would be: Solar City 2020.


Degree to which people, property, resources, systems, and cultural, economic, environmental, and social activity are susceptible to harm, degradation, or destruction on being exposed to a hostile factor (here the hostile factor are mostly negative environmental impacts). Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude, and rate of climate change and variation to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity (IPCC, 2007).

A useful shorthand definition is that vulnerability to climate change is a “measure of possible future harm” (Hinkel 2010). To fully define vulnerability it is good practice to specify:

  • the entity that is vulnerable,
  • the stimulus to which it is vulnerable, and
  • the preference criteria to evaluate the outcome of the interaction between the entity and the stimulus (Ionescu et al. 2009).

Cities are particularly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters because of the large number of people living in relatively concentrated areas and the complexity of the systems that interact within them: infrastructure networks to transport people and goods, communications systems, water and energy distribution, sewers and waste removal systems, food production, housing and urban green spaces, etc.

Vulnerability Assessment

The vulnerability assessment is that part of the Baseline Review that refers to Climate Adaptation. The vulnerability assessment of a city should consider the elements of exposure, sensitivity and their related effects (which increase the city’s vulnerability), as well as an assessment of their adaptation potentials, or adaptive capacity, (which reduce the city’s vulnerability).
The information required to conduct such an analysis comes from three different domains, and is obtained through the collaboration with stakeholders. The three domains are:

  • Climate and biophysical science. Focuses on climate change manifestations and impacts.
  • Technical domain. Focuses on the functionality and vulnerability of ‘hard’ systems.
  • Socio-economic domain. Focuses on ‘soft’ systems, particularly the governance and management system as well as socio-economic systems

This analysis – once aggregated - will determine the vulnerability of each city system and of the city as a whole.