Climate Baseline Review

  • What is our city or region’s carbon footprint?
  • How will the local and regional climate change?
  • Which sectors and actors are contributing to this and how much?
  • What risks and opportunities will arise from climate change?
  • Is the current local and regional management related to climate & energy set up resiliently?
  • What legal requirements need to be fulfilled?
  • What sectors have opportunities to act – both in climate mitigation and adaptation programmes?
  • What priority areas should be focused on?

These are some of the important questions addressed by a Climate Baseline Review. The review aims to create a solid basis for setting priorities and targets in a city or region’s climate change response. It takes stock of present climate conditions and expected changes, and helps to evaluate strengths and weaknesses, risks and opportunities in terms of climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.

The Baseline Review will be the basis of all the following steps in the management cycle and allow the city or region to set targets and draft a climate strategy – stand alone or as part of the overall Strategic Programme. Furthermore, it will serve as the point of reference when monitoring and evaluating progress achievements, as improvements are only measurable and visible if compared to the ‘point of departure’ - the baseline.

The results of the Baseline Review will be presented as a report, which will be regularly updated based on the achievements at the end of the management period. However, a renewal of the review process should follow every three to five- years as framework conditions and knowledge change constantly or the focus switches to different priorities.

As an outcome the Climate Baseline Review report will map out:

  • Local energy production and consumption patterns
  • Greenhouse gas emissions by sector and scope
  • Local climate change impacts
  • Significant climate aspects of municipal operations
  • Local vulnerabilities, risks and opportunities
  • Legal requirements
  • Existing political priorities, decisions, commitments, and strategies
  • Emerging issues, trends and forthcoming policies
  • Climate relevant responsibilities and organisational set-up
  • Existing relevant management instruments and procedures
  • The stakeholder landscape incl. all relevant actors

A complete Climate Baseline Review will include and regularly perform the following work steps:

  1. Planning the Climate Baseline Review process
  2. Map the local situation with regard to climate mitigation and adaptation
  3. Evaluate the local situation with regard to climate mitigation and adaptation
  4. Present the findings and foresee reporting standards.

Note: It is important to see the Baseline Review as an effort involving actors and information from various administrative departments, agencies or other organisations. Be relieved, you usually don’t have to start from scratch. The task is rather to identify, assess and re-structure existing data or gaps therein. Gaps do not necessarily need to be filled immediately. In fact, this might be one of the actions defined in the Action Plan implemented in the course of the Management Cycle. You may want to refer to the ‘Dos and Don’ts (box below) when conducting the Baseline Review’.

  • Work thoroughly and accurate, consistent and reproducible
  • Set clear time-frame and scope
  • Involve relevant persons/groups
  • Work on priorities to be cost-efficient
  • Don't exaggerate
  • Be not to lose or rigid
  • Don't forget relevant persons/groups
  • Don't work on project histories

Planning the Baseline Review

The collection of data on aspects relevant to climate change and sustainability has the potential to become an intensive time and capacity consuming exercise. For this reason, the work will be properly planned and will focus on identifying gaps and needs in priority areas rather than developing long lists of past projects. The Baseline Review Checklist helps to plan and track how the process is conducted, based on minimum requirements.

Planning the Baseline Review should respond to the following questions:

  1. Who is to do what and by when? A decision on roles and responsibilities, as well as a time-plan related to conducting the review process is key. Naturally, the process is coordinated by the sustainability coordinator requesting support from responsible coordinators for mitigation and adaptation. As climate change is truly a cross-cutting issue, the involvement of a number of representatives from relevant departments is required as part of a coordination board or at agreed procedures.
  2. What is the scope of the Integrated Management System (IMS) (and which emissions should be prioritised in the Baseline Review): Climate change is a global issue, which undeniably surpasses the territory and decision-making power of a city or region. However, if planning and action is focused, also cities are effectively able to address climate change, as 75% of Greenhouse Gases arise from their own territories. Furthermore better coordination and responses are possible. Since we are dealing with a cross-cutting issue that potentially affects a large number of aspects of municipal activities and services, focused planning is essential for success. Our planning requires to involve and to mobilise also other levels of government to be appropriately addressed. The definition of the scope is therefore an exercise that deserves thorough consideration.
  3. What should the results look like and how should the review be structured? The content of the baseline review – and subsequently of the report presenting the findings - can be structured in different ways. It is suggested to use an existing framework following existing commitments. The Aalborg Commitments offer a broad sustainability oriented reference framework for local and regional sustainable development. Have a look at how climate issues are reflected in the Aalborg Commitments. The Covenant of Mayors pursues a more narrow approach focusing purely on the development and implementation of a Sustainable Energy Action Plan.
  4. How can data, information and knowledge be processed and documented? Through which standards or registry systems are they able to gain legitimacy? Those questions are of fundamental importance for any management system. Data sources and characteristics, monitoring frequencies, data ownership, processes and manipulation needs - all this information needs to be part of efficient data management procedures. However, the Baseline Review in particular is the time to structure and assess existing data as well as identify and address gaps. Instruments like the Cities Climate Registry can offer guidance and support for appropriate data management.
  5. How to identify priorities for the forthcoming management period? The Baseline Review should be concluded by an analysis of the city or region’s contribution to and resilience against climate change – it’s existing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. A SWOT analysis has been proven to be an appropriate tool for this assessment. Once the SWOT analysis is decided, its implementation has to be prepared at an early stage in the process. Accordingly, staff and financial capacity need to be allocated.
  6. How to involve the right people – appropriately? A greater number of citizens and groups both contribute and are exposed to climate change. Effective climate change mitigation and adaption therefore requires more awareness and the buy-in of these individuals, groups and organisations, including residents, housing companies, energy producers, manufacturers, researchers, emergency services, financing institutes, tourism sector, farmers and many others. An initial stakeholder mapping need to be carried out at this stage, as well as thorough planning of the Communication and Involvement process.

Map the local situation

This is the part of the baseline review where data and information is collected and compiled according to the agreed structure and identified needs and priorities. Mapping the local situation involves mapping the legal and policy framework, mapping the organisational set-up and mapping the climate change impacts:

1. Mapping the city profile involves:

  • review of existing database, information systems and reporting tools
  • highlighting sustainability issues and trends (core set of key indicators)

2. Mapping the policy framework involves:

  • legal requirements
  • emerging issues, trends and forthcoming policies
  • existing political priorities, decisions, commitments, and strategies.

3. Mapping the organisational set-up involves:

  • climate relevant responsibilities and organisational set-up
  • staff capacity and capabilities
  • existing relevant management instruments procedures and financial capacities
  • stakeholder landscape incl. all relevant actors

4. Mapping the local climate change impacts and biodiversity involves:

  • local energy production and consumption patterns
  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • significant climate aspects
  • local climate change impacts
  • state of local biodiversity
  • local vulnerabilities, risks and opportunities

A good example for a successfully conducted Baseline Review is the city of Ancona.

Mapping the city profile

Review of existing database, information systems and reporting tools

A general overview of the city, highlighting what are the main driving forces characterizing the local economy, demography and environment is an essential starting point. The first step which has to be done is a review of different reports and databases that are available at local level, making an effort of summarising all of them in a synthetic profile. The main aspects that have to be taken into account in this synthetic profile are:

  • Demography
  • Economy
  • Climate
  • Land use
  • Mobility
  • Waste
  • Water

Highlighting sustainability issues and trends (core set of key indicators)

To obtain a synthetic and, at the same time, communicative and clear city profile it’s important to use a set of indicators based on the DPSIR model (driving force, pressure, state, impact, response). The set proposed is made up of about 100 indicators, divided into 6 different categories that are consistent with the Aalborg Commitments:

  • Local action for health and natural common goods (Aalborg Commitments 3, 7)
  • Planning, design and better mobility (Aalborg Commitments 5, 6)
  • Responsible consumption and lifestyle choices (Aalborg Commitments 4)
  • Local to global: energy and climate change (Aalborg Commitments 3, 10)
  • Local management towards sustainability and governance (Aalborg Commitments 1, 2)
  • Vibrant, sustainable local economy and social equity, justice and coesion (Aalborg Commitments 8, 9)

The set proposed gives a wide perspective of different issues that could be included in the Baseline Review. Each city can select its own indicators set, according to data availability and resources, starting from a restricted “key set” of 30 indicators which is strongly recommended in order to have a satisfying city profile.

Mapping the policy framework

Compliance with legal requirements

Legal compliance is a complex and difficult issue for local governments. Regularly, it is just assumed that local governments are working in accordance with existing legislation. A second view only serves as an eye-opener: Canalisation is leaking – non-compliance with the European Water Directive. Fine-dust is exceeding certain standards – non-compliance with the Air Quality Framework Directive. Water-run off – as a consequence of climate change - leading to flood buildings, chemical facilities, oil refineries, gasoline stations, or waste management facilities – potential non-compliance with precautionary principle, Seveso II Directive, Waste Framework Directive. The local petrol and diesel market does not offer biofuels – conflict with the reference value of 5.75% market share of biofuels in 2010, Biofuels Directive. No significant cost-effective measures are taken to enhance energy performance, although the value of the renovation exceeds 25% of the total value of the building – renovation does not respond to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. A local government has no power or mandate to introduce competition into the regional energy market – potential non-compliance with the Energy from Renewable Source Directive, etc.

Obviously, and in particular due to existing knowledge on climate change, local governments need to be aware of the list of existing EU environmental and other framework directives linked to climate, energy and biodiversity issues, as well as national legislation, and check the relevance of municipal operations regarding responses to climate change.

European and national legislation will reflect climate change mitigation and adaptation more and more. For example:

On European level:

  • In March 2010 the directive “Promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources” was released to promote the security of energy supply, technological development and innovation, provide opportunities for employment and regional development, especially in rural and isolated areas, and last but least to achieve compliance towards international and European climate commitments. The document follows the long history of other directives related to building standards, energy efficiency or transport.
  • In January 2008 the European Commission proposed binding legislation to implement glossary#20_20_20_targets|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.
  • Also spatial planning policies will take mitigation and adaptation issues into account more systematically. In fact, spatial planning in some countries is already the ‘guiding legislation’ for climate change adaptation, e.g. in Latvia. As a consequence, the city of Riga is developing adaptation measures based on spatial planning legislation. However, as climate adaptation in particular involves the re-examination of local and regional infrastructure, spatial planning is one of the most important legal mechanisms to apply.
  • Sustainable development is a goal in many strategies and policies: EU Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment, Gothenburg and EU 2020 Strategy, Leipzig Charter

Emerging issues, trends and forthcoming policies

Climate change and biodiversity knowledge and information is continuously developing among the general public as the effects of climate change are becoming more and more visible. Following the precautionary principle and as a matter of preparation, emerging policies, strategies and programmes at EU and national level, as well and the issues and trends emerging need to be considered and valued with regard to consequences for the forthcoming local Target Setting and Strategic Programme.

At European level there are a number of directives and strategies relevant for climate change response which affect local governments and are due to be revised in the next few years.

  • Concerning mitigation the EU has set the target of reducing CO2 by 20 % and increasing renewable energies up to 20 % of energy consumption and increasing energy efficiency by 2020.
  • In May 2010 the Commission presented a communication that analysed the costs and benefits for moving beyond the current EU greenhouse gas reduction target. The document calculates that stepping up to a 30% reduction target by 2020 will lead to no additional costs compared to the already existing budget for the 20% target, since emissions have declined during the economic crisis in 2009 as well as cost savings of €11,5 billion per year for health care and air pollution can be expected.
  • An EU strategy to adaptation is being prepared for 2013.
  • National adaptation strategies exist eg. in Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Other countries are preparing an adaptation strategy. See progress towards national adaptation strategies on European Environment Agency website
  • Around the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties on the UN Convention on Biodiversity, European policy development has seen a boost that is going to lead to a revision of the European Action Plan on Biodiversity as well as a Directive on Biodiversity.

Political priorities

Aside from the fulfillment of mandatory legal requirements, the framework for local governments to act is designed by political priorities and commitments, council decisions and long-term plans and programmes. Your city might have climate initiatives in place, targets agreed to by signature to an international commitments e.g. the Aalborg Commitments, the Covenant of Mayors, the World Mayor’s Declaration on Climate Change or alike. From these ‘voluntary obligations’, both priorities targets for a local or regional climate strategy may be the result, serving both as orientation for Baseline Review and Strategic Programme as well as an opportunity to generate and increase political buy-in and commitment.

Mapping the organisational set-up

Climate relevant responsibilities and organizational set-up

Integrated management is about making organisational structures more efficient. An important part of a climate baseline review is therefore to identify the departments and political bodies involved with issues relevant to climate change mitigation and adaption, document their roles, responsibilities, and mandates as well as contact persons. It may help to draw an organisational chart highlighting both responsibilities and communication and involvement needs with regard to climate change issues. A variety of tools are available to support this exercise. Refer to step organisational set-up.

Existing management instruments and procedures

All local governments have a specific set of management instruments in place. Of course, policymakers, experts and stakeholders already have their needs, objectives, instruments and tools. Therefore it is fundamental to use existing experiences with environmental management systems rather than re-inventing the wheel. In this way, strengths and advantages can be used as basis for pursuing a better urban environmental management and therefore co-ordinate and integrate existing (sectoral) instruments - air quality management, water quality management, transport planning etc.

To integrate existing instruments with the management system it is important to perform a system review. Identify and review all relevant management systems and procedures in place and take into account general organisational structures and procedures – such as the regular exchange of information between heads of departments, or procedures related to financial control and management of the local government’s financial budget. It could be a good idea to even collate the data collection with the financial year (e.g. from July to June) in order to align data collection from internal sources and climate and biodiversity reporting with the presentation of the municipal budget report rather than using a calendar year.

What are the ongoing planning cycles, in to which adaptation has to be integrated? It is a time consuming work, but the only way to have a complete overview of all relevant management systems and procedures is to really pay attention to the processes and details. Very often the overview reveals surprises: Identical procedures working parallel without connection, procedures structured as one way streets not being linked back, time consuming documentation which nobody needs, interesting information which does not reach the right people. It is here that integrated management comes into play, establishing a structure that links the different parts of the local government that are relevant for responding to climate change and for sustainable development.

Stakeholder landscape including all relevant actors

(See chapter Involvement and Communication)
Many different stakeholders will be involved in the process. The expansion of the management approach will not consider administrative boundaries and the degree of local governmental power. This means all the relevant impacts are to be considered: impacts within the municipality’s responsibility (involving the private economy and citizens) as well as the impact of activities of all actors (municipality and stakeholders) on neighbouring municipalities and cities. (See following section ‘Greenhouse Gas Emission by sector’ as example for definition related to boundaries and scope of the Baseline Review).

Mapping the local climate change impacts

Mapping out local climate change impacts offers a foundation to make comparison possible, both with a previous situation in the city or region or with other cities or regions. It provides a starting point against which targets can be set and progress measured. Based on this, an appropriate prioritisation of activities is possible, effectively leading to the development of a strategic approach to reducing emissions and adapting to climate change.

  • Local energy production and consumption patterns
  • Greenhouse gas emissions by sector and scope
  • Significant climate aspects of municipal operations
  • Local climate change impacts
  • Local vulnerabilities, risks and opportunities

Local energy generation and consumption patterns

Energy supply and consumption is key to our greenhouse gas emissions and the subsequent effects of climate change. However it is important to note that energy security is one of the most important services of local governments as is the basis for citizens’ quality of life and the local and regional economic development. Local and regional governments have numerous options to influence energy supply, consumption and infrastructure through energy efficiency, saving and renewable energy measures as well as other energy-related actions.

The Covenant of Mayors describes local governments responsibilities and opportunities

  • Consumer and service provider: Local governments occupy many buildings which use substantial amounts of energy, such as for heating, cooling and lighting. Introducing energy saving programmes and actions in public buildings can result in considerable savings of energy and costs. Local and regional governments also provide energy-intensive services such as public transport and street lighting where improvements can be made. And even where the authority has contracted these services to other providers, measures to reduce energy use can be implemented through procurement and service contracts A practical guide explaining the steps for a public authority to take to encourage energy efficient innovation through public procurement, and an Excel tool (with a User Guide) for calculating both life-cycle costs (LCC) and CO2 emissions in procurement are provided by the project: Smart SPP.
  • Planner, developer and regulator: Land use planning and organisation of the transport system are the responsibilities of most local and regional governments. Strategic decisions concerning urban development such as avoiding urban sprawl can reduce the energy use of transport. A useful guidebook for local governments about successful transport decision-making is available through the CIVITAS-Initiative. Moreover local and regional governments can often have a regulator role for example by setting energy performance standards, or stipulating the incorporation of renewable energy equipment in new buildings. The European web portal for energy efficiency in buildings, BUILD UP, provides professionals, house owners and tenants as well as public authorities currently with 136 tool and 136 cases to help trigger energy action in buildings.
  • Advisor, motivator and role model: Local and regional governments can help to inform and motivate residents, businesses and other local stakeholders on how they can use energy more efficiently. Awareness-raising activities are important to engage the whole community to support sustainable energy policies policies and initiate behavior change. Creative and engaging campaigning which achieved unprecedented success was for instance done by Tübingen, Germany, with “Tübingen macht blau” or Nottingham, United Kingdom, with the local implementation of the global campaign “10:10”.Furthermore, children are an important audience for energy saving and renewable projects: they will also pass on the lessons they learn outside of school. The striking idea from Reggio Emilia, Italy, where pupils collect green miles for walking or riding by bike to school to win a green award for their class, is summarized in the LG Action Guide and worth to be replicated. At the same time it is equally important that the authority leads by example, and plays an exemplary role in sustainable energy activities.
  • Producer and supplier: Local and regional governments can promote local energy production and the use of renewable energy sources. Combined Heat and Power (CHP) district heating systems using biomass are a good example. The Global District Climate Award winner Copenhagen, Denmark, for instance interconnects 98% of its homes with a district heating system that runs on CHP and waste incineration and by that took a big step towards its climate target to become CO2 neutral by 2020. Local and regional governments can also encourage citizens to implement renewable energy projects by providing financial support for local initiatives.

A Climate Baseline Review should therefore include a Baseline Energy Inventory, that documents the current energy generation, supply and consumption patterns. According to guidelines of the EU Covenant of Mayors, the inventory should include as a minimum:

  1. Final energy consumption and corresponding CO2 emissions: is related to the different energy commodities that are consumed by final end-users within the boundaries of the municipality. Reducing final energy consumption should be considered as a priority in following an action plan.
  2. Local electricity production: is related to local electricity production (development of photovoltaic panels (PVs), small hydro or wind power, combined heat and power plants (CHP), improvement of efficiency in local power generation).
  3. Local heating / cooling generation: is related to production of heat within the city, and the heat is then supplied as a commodity to end-users (for instance district heating or CHP plant).

Greenhouse gas emissions by sector and scope

To what extent is your city or region contributing to climate change? How much greenhouse gases are emitted? What are the main sources? What are the costs of climate change, in cases when action is either taken or not taken? These questions could be answered by developing a Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory (GHG Inventory). It is obviously closely linked to the Energy Inventory, however, in contrast the focus is on the city or region’s responsibility for global climate conditions.

A local government GHG inventory is an itemised report on GHG emissions from all sources. The inventory should be based on national and international standards with a local government focus. Based on the Emission Inventory you will be able to identify the sectors and principal sources that emit the most greenhouse gases and assess each sector’s potential for reducing emission of greenhouse gases. It is therefore used to help prioritise activities. Some of the emissions are under direct responsibility of the local government and its operations. Usually, the main sectors include buildings, transport, energy and waste. In further steps of the management cycle – in particular when monitoring and evaluating progress and achievements – it is used to measure the results of actions.

The GHG Inventory consists of two components:

  • government operations emissions inventory
  • community emissions analysis

See Table 1 below for a list of the sectors of both GHG Inventory components:

Government Operations Segment Community Segment
Buildings Residential
Vehicle Fleet Commercial
Employee Commute Industrial
Street lights Transport
Water/Sewage Waste
Waste Other

Before you conduct a GHG inventory you need to be aware of:

a) Data boundaries: The choice of data boundaries for the emissions inventory is sometimes a complex matter to resolve. Data for buildings and facilities that are owned and or operated by the local government need to be included in your Government Operations inventory. However, data of utilities related but not directly controlled by your Council may be more difficult to obtain. Refer to the International Protocol and your Country Supplement which offers recommendations for the inclusion of data for entities (organisations) that are related to your local government. Your definitions and decisions need to be recorded in your Baseline Emission Inventory.

b) Scope of emissions: There are three scopes of emissions which you can choose to be part of your baseline review. Scope 1 emissions that are produced from direct combustion of fuels by the municipality (or community). Scope 2 emissions are those indirect emissions – released elsewhere - from the use of purchased electricity or purchased reticulated heat and cold services (district heating etc). Scope 3 emissions are those produced by someone else in providing services to your municipality. Local governments should include Scope 1 and Scope 2. Scope 3 would be a recognisable ambition.

After decisions have been made about boundaries and scope, the inventory usually follows a four step implementation:

  1. Select a Base Year as reference point for evaluating the current greenhouse gas emissions. The Base Year also forms the benchmark for future emission targets. The Base Year will depend on the availability of data. The Covenant of Mayors recommends year 1990 as a base.
  2. Collect energy consumption data: consumption, consumers and price, as well as further indicators of the base year and every year covered by the inventory. The data collection process often highlights gaps in data availability or accessibility (the latter eg. due to data ownership). Keep a detailed record of these problems, so that you can include actions to fix them. The CCP Inventory Manual advices on how to deal with data gaps. Some gaps, especially from the community segment might be covered by “proxy data” derived from statistical sources such as census data,
  3. Record the quantities of corporate waste disposed in landfills (tonnes) (Note not to include diverted waste such as recycled materials or inputs to a composting system. In some cases, eg. the Covenant of Mayors, waste disposal is not required. However, waste is an important source of emissions and objective of potential actions. Since methane is a particularly harmful GHG with 21 times the potency of CO2 in terms of trapping heat in the atmosphere. It therefore should be taken in to account.)
  4. Energy and waste consumed have to be converted into greenhouse gas emissions using agreed emission factors to CO2 equivalents. Note: For each country and year, country specific coefficients for the calculation of CO2 equivalents exist. The Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) Inventory Tool is an easy-to-use spreadsheet, which operates by converting the energy and waste data (fuel used, electricity used and waste materials dumped) into GHG emissions using nationally acceptable emission factors. The results are measured in tonnes (t) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), or tCO2e. Calculators to allow you to change energy values from one unit to another are available on the web. (For example, search Google with an expression such as “convert MJ to kWh”.)

A practical challenge appears in that no agreed standard for establishing a GHG inventory is available. In fact, different tools exist; some free of charge, others quite expensive, some fairly simple, others quite sophisticated. However, it is expected that European standard inventories will be provided in future. The International Local Government Greenhouse Gas Protocol goes even further, anticipating an international standard for inventories:

In 2008, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability released the International Local Government Greenhouse Gas Protocol to provide an easily implemented set of guidelines to assist local governments in quantifying the greenhouse gas emissions from both their internal operations and from the whole communities with their geopolitical boundaries. It was designed to provide guidance and establish a standard for a management programme. The standardised approach described in this Protocol facilitates comparisons between local governments and the aggregation and reporting of results being achieved by the action of diverse communities. The Supplements contain a description of how the principles outlined in the document are to be implemented in each country or region, compiled specifically for local governments. It was peer reviewed, drawing upon the expertise and experience of experts and ICLEI’s world-wide membership. The tool offers a manual and spreadsheets which are adapted to the country (coefficients for different countries are being built into the spreadsheets). The inventory is divided into a Governmental and a Community section. Available from GHG Protocol website. For the time being, local governments can choose from various existing inventory tools.

  • Climate Alliance: The Eco2Region, a web-based tool for GHG Inventories, was launched in August 2008. Country specific versions exist for Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Luxemburg, and France. The tool focuses on final energy consumption, primary energy cycles, CO2 – emissions for final and primary energy for the sectors: Households (Private homes), Economy (agricultural, industrial, services), Municipality (city lighting, buildings, infrastructure), and Transport (private, public, freight, long-distance). The tool offers an online database and reporting tool, and a basis for a variety of analysis based on indicators. It develops a cities emission profile, in effect leading to suggestions for priority measures. Available from websites: CO2 Monitoring Tool for local authorities or Climate Alliance.
  • The Covenant of Mayors (CoM) offers guidance to a Baseline Emission Inventory as part of the so-called Sustainable Energy Action Plan. It consists of an instruction document and spreadsheets for entering the data, country coefficients for calculation of CO2 equivalents are not available. The spreadsheet includes buildings (incl. equipment, facilities and industry), and transport as main categories. Data is collected for final energy consumption, CO2 or CO2e emissions, local electricity production, local district heating/cooling. Available from the CoM website.
  • In the framework of the MODEL project, a Municipal Energy Planning Guide was developed to introduce a common framework methodology for preparing, developing and implementing energy measures locally. It outlines the fundamental principles related to the process in ten steps and provides various good practise examples throughout Europe. Auxiliary materials illustrate some model tools for collection and processing of information.

Further tools can be found at Carbonn.

Significant climate aspects of municipal operations

The issue of the impacts of climate change poses questions on a variety of levels and scales. The impacts could be on infrastructure, dwellings, ecology, water resources, land management and the environment. Your local solar industry might be better off, but agriculture could suffer from droughts or pests. Politicians who do not deliver competent answers and action to their community may face problems with re-election. See chapter on Political Commitment.

Numerous social, economic and environmental factors need to be taken into consideration and these technical considerations are themselves often set within a complex political context. In order to consider the mixed effects of climate change, the use of the Aalborg Commitments could be a source of inspiration, a reference document and guidance. The Aalborg Commitments were adopted in 2004 in the context of the European Sustainable Cities and Towns Campaign and have been signed by more than 600 municipalities (May 2010).

A method to be used for evaluating the significant aspects of the municipal services and operations with regard to climate mitigation and adaptation has to be established by the coordinator responsible the coordination board. It is of vital importance that you take an unprejudiced and complete look at the mitigation and adaptation aspects, as well as environmental/sustainability aspects of the services your city or region provides. Not all aspects have the same importance and should be targeted with the same priority. The minimum requirement should be to demonstrate that all significant factors concerning climate mitigation and adaptation were considered. Some examples:

Sector Direct aspects Indirect aspects
Buildings Energy consumption and efficiency of buildings owned by the municipality Local building regulations requiring a high energy efficiency standard; local incentives for retrofitting
Transport Municipal vehicle fleet Employee commute
Public transport attractiveness

Climate change impacts

Climate change is the consequence of the enormous amount of greenhouse gas emissions since the era of industrialisation. Between 2000 and 2009, Europe experienced the warmest decade ever. In Berlin, Germany, the average temperature was at 9.5°C, in average ca. 1°C warmer compared to before industrialisation. Heat waves hit Europe in 2003 and 2005. In 2003 the German cities of Freiburg and Karlsruhe had a record temperature of 40.2°C. It was the single event after World War II that caused the greatest number of deaths in Europe. In France alone, more than 14,000 deaths were recorded that summer, more than 35,000 in the whole of Europe. Average precipitation arrived at 827 l/m2, more than ever before. The storm Kyrill hit Europe on 18-19 January 2007. According to the insurance company Munich Re, the amount of weather-driven natural hazards has increased by factor 3 since 1950. The German Federal Environmental Agencies says that damage caused by floods, storms, droughts and heat-waves between 1990 and 2009 amount to ca. 16 bn. €. More than 7,000 deaths can be attributed to climate change in the same period.

A prerequisite for any vulnerability assessment is a local and regional prediction of climate change impacts and weather extremes: How will the temperature change? What will be main seasonal changes? What kind of weather extremes are to be expected? Is wind hampered by local forest or likely to reach high speed? Possible impacts of climate change, like sea level rise, intense precipitation, drainage and flash flooding, river floods, drought, heat waves or urban heat islands as well as wind and storm damage, can affect all sectors.

The main vulnerabilities of cities and urban regions to climate change can be defined in form of “climate change issues” for European cities and urban regions, as developed in AEA et al. (2009). These issues are a combination of the following factors, which are described in further detail below:

  • a climate threat (e.g., drought, heat waves, flooding, sea level rise, etc);
  • a European macro-region (e.g., Mediterranean, central Europe, Baltic coast, etc);
  • a sector, function or specific system (e.g., forestry, human health, energy network, buildings, etc); and
  • a target group or group most affected (e.g., elderly, land managers, outside workers, low income group, etc).

Climate threat: Urban areas and cities in Europe face different climate threats, of which some of the most relevant causing negative impacts are:

  • temperature increase leading to heat waves and – more particular to 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);
  • decreased precipitation leading to water scarcity and droughts;
  • climate impacts leading to natural disturbances, e.g. wild fires, pests;
  • climate impacts leading to earth movements (landslides, erosion); and
  • climate impacts leading to increased human diseases.

European macro-regions: The vulnerability of urban regions is highly influenced by their geographical location. European macro-regions (DG Regional Policy, 2009), which are areas from a number of different countries or regions associated with one or more common features or challenges are likely to be exposed to similar climate threats due to geographical similarities. Functional regions may well overlap, so that a given location is in more than one macro-region. According to an assessment by the EEA (2008) biogeographic macro-regions in Europe facing similar climatic threats have been defined as follows:

  • Arctic: decrease in Arctic sea ice coverage, Greenland ice sheet loss.
  • North-western Europe (North Sea Region and Atlantic Region): increase in winter precipitation and river flow, northward movement of freshwater species.
  • North-eastern Europe (Boreal Region): less snow, lake and river ice cover, increased river flows, higher forest growth, northward movement of species, higher risk of damage by winter storms.
  • Central and eastern Europe: more temperature extremes, less summer precipitation, more river floods in winter, higher water temperature, increased forest fire danger, lower forest stability.
  • Mediterranean region: decrease in annual precipitation and annual river flow, increase in water demand, more forest fires, higher risk for desertification, biodiversity loss and heat waves, more vector-borne diseases.
  • Coastal areas (Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic, North Sea, Baltic Sea, Black Sea): higher risks of coastal flooding, coastal erosion and salt water intrusion.
  • Mountains: high temperature increase, less glacier mass and permafrost, higher risk of soil erosion, rock falls and species extinction, upward shift of plants and animals.

In most countries reports show the effects of climate change, usually divided into the main geographical regions like the Regional Climate Atlas for Germany. In some cases, regional studies offer detailed descriptions of the expected changes. From these studies and reports, local trends of changing climate and expected weather extremes can be derived. Due to great uncertainties with climate change, it is a good idea to ask for expert support when producing local climate scenarios.

Vulnerabilities, risks and opportunities

Local governments are responsible for the wellbeing of the citizens living in the city or region. To this end, climate adaptation is an obligation of local governments. On the one hand it aims to reduce the vulnerability to immediate and future impacts from climate change, increasing the resilience of infrastructure and key services provided by the local government. On the other, climate adaptation must attempt to discover and use the opportunities arising for local and regional development. An assessment of vulnerabilities, risks and opportunities, and adaptive capacity in regard of current and expected climate change impacts completes the Climate Baseline Review.

Vulnerability is strongly linked with adaptability, since vulnerable social-ecological systems implies loss of adaptability. Mitigation and adaptation measures can reduce the risk and potential impacts associated with global climate change, GHG emission, exposure and sensitivity to undesirable events. Adaptive capacity should be boosted increasing the sense of responsibility and awareness among general public and decision makers, energy efficiency and use of renewable, sustain an integrated management system thorough the development of a tailored legislative context.

The conceptual diagram below shows the interrelation between climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation. Important in this framework is the notion that vulnerability is determined by both potential climate change impacts and adaptive capacity. Adaptation strategies can address either.

Image 1
Source: Europe Adapts to Climate Change, Comparing National Adaptation Strategies, Peer Report No.1, 2009.

Vulnerability reflects the physical and underlying social conditions of the city or region, for instance the percentage of built area susceptible to flooding, the density of population or the state of infrastructure. Risk is generally defined as a combination of the likelihood of an occurrence and consequences of that occurrence. Risk assessment may involve quantitative or qualitative techniques and information to describe the nature of risks.

Adaptive capacity is the willingness of city leadership to address climate change and the socio-economic and institutional capacity of the city or region to do so. The inclusion of opportunities is in recognition of the fact that there may be some benefits that emerge from or are inherent with the impacts of climate change, whether they exists through technological or economic development or from better suited ecosystem services. The opportunities may be external or internal; environmental, social and/or economic; and may range from enhanced habitats to economic development gains to greater community support/presence to a strong sense of collaboration and commitment to strategic vision across the local government. Initial scoping should include the following sectors: energy, transportation, infrastructure, business, health, emergency response and water management.

According to Robrecht & Morchain (2010), cities are highly dependent on their “lifelines” – infrastructure systems to transport people and goods, communications systems, water and energy distribution, sewers and waste removal systems. With their high population density, their often large numbers of poor and elderly residents, their dense physical structure and their dependencies on – often ageing - infrastructure systems, cities and towns are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change (EEA 2009). Moreover, the vulnerability of urban areas to climate change is also a function of well-established social, economic, governance and management processes.

Sector, function or specific system: Cities are very complex and combine in one geographic location a large number of inter-related physical and social systems. The focal point of all urban systems is the preservation of the health and well-being of the urban population. Most systems are threatened by more than one climate change-related impact and most climate change threats have influence on more than one system. Therefore, threats and systems are multiply connected. Some systems, such as the energy supply system, feed many other systems, creating a risky dependence and the potential for domino-effect failures in systems in the face of, for instance, climate change-related pressures. An example of the multiple effects has been experienced in Canada and USA in summer 2003 during the historic power outage leaving cities like Toronto and New York some days without electricity. An overwhelming demand of electricity particularly for air conditioning and cooling led to problems in the cooling system of a particular power plant and consequently to overstraining the entire energy supply system in greater parts of North America resulting in a cascading break-down of numerous power plants and finally the entire grid.

The urban systems considered the most important in terms of potential climate change impacts and their subsequent potential to affect citizens’ quality of life are:

  • energy supply;
  • communication and information;
  • transportation;
  • water supply;
  • sewage and drainage;
  • solid waste;
  • buildings and built-up area;
  • urban green areas and biodiversity;
  • health & air quality;
  • food production & supply;
  • governance and management;
  • social systems; and
  • tourism (and economy of the urban region).

Target group or group most affected: In general, according to Carmin & Zhang (2010), the most common vulnerable groups in urban areas are:

  • the elderly;
  • low income groups;
  • disabled or sick persons;
  • the young; and
  • ethnic or religious minorities.

The figure below gives an idea of how broad, complex and interlinked potential impacts of climate change can be.

Image 2
Source: DG Environment, based on EEA, 2008 and IPCC, 2007

A vulnerability assessment of a city or region involves identifying and analysing the vulnerabilities and risks to weather extremes and climate across sectors and populations, as well as the opportunities arising, evaluating and prioritising them and identifying adaptation options and measures. It regularly involves:

  • Characterisation of hazards and modifications associated with climate change at city or regional level
  • Identification of the most vulnerable segments (people, locations, sectors) of the city or region
  • Identification of opportunities arising for different segments (people, locations, sectors) of the city or region
  • Assessment of the ability of the city or region to adapt to the anticipated potential impacts.

The assessment should address priority risks first:

  • high risks that you already face;
  • risks that will increase most rapidly due to climate change, especially if they cross some critical threshold;
  • risks where it will take some time to plan and implement your adaptation response;
  • contingency planning;
  • where there is a complementary non-climate driver for taking action, such as health and safety or mitigation or achieving a better work/life balance.

Meanwhile, numerous tools are available to support local governments in conducting vulnerability assessments. Here you can find some examples of tools.

Evaluate the local situation

As the final part of the baseline review you should carry out an evaluation of the findings of the baseline review. This can be done in a larger group that also involves external stakeholders. . Evaluating is part of the risk framework initial assessment workshop, and is aimed to check if identified measures are conform with the goals of mitigation adaptation and sustainable development. This is done to make sure important aspects have not been missed and to find the significant aspects.

A suggested method of evaluating is the SWOT analysis, but other methods can also be applied.

Present the findings and foresee reporting standards

The baseline review and its findings should be presented to the council and the public. Transparency is very important. Those who do not work in the field have to be able to easily understand the criteria used to evaluate the aspects of mitigation and adaptation, as well as sustainability and environment and how the priorities for the strategic programme were set. Don’t ignore data gaps which you came across, but rather present measures that you have taken to address them in future inventories. In any case you can present the findings of the baseline review in different ways depending on the audience you are targeting. Use understandable language and appealing graphics to help communicate the message. Make a logic structure for explaining the main findings. Here you can show the share the local government has with its direct responsibilities but also the share of others (companies, organisations and the public consisting of each individual) in the task of reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission.

Adequate presentations of the findings would give you support in your community. Political commitments may add on to that on a different level, providing you with opportunities for visibility and sometimes even opening up additional financial channels. However, some commitments are strict in their requirements and demanding in their reporting. Therefore you would need to check carefully, if your inventory meets those standards, if you have to upgrade your baseline review and if sufficient staff capacity and capability is available for you to do so.


  • AEA et al, 2009. Preliminary assessment and roadmap for the elaboration of Climate Change Vulnerability Indicators at regional level. Reference: ENV.G.1/ETU/2008/0092r, Final Report to the European Commission, Dec. 2009
  • Carmin, J., Zhang, Y. (2009): Achieving Urban Climate Adaptation in Europe and Central Asia. The World Bank. Europe and Central Asia Region. Sustainable Development Department. Policy Research Working Paper 5088. Similar: Commission of the European Communities (EC), Adapting to climate change: Towards a European framework for action, White Paper, COM(2009) 147 final
  • EEA – European Environment Agency (2008): Impacts of Europe's changing climate - 2008 indicator-based assessment. EEA Report No 4/2008
  • Robrecht, H., Morchain, D. (2010): Adaptation to the changing climate: time to intensify efforts. Background document for Workshop 4: Adaptation in cities & quality of life