Status on Danish municipalities’ progress on strategic climate adaptation

4. December 2023

A new report delves into the climate change adaption plans of Danish municipalities. The report concludes that municipalities have become more aware of the need for climate adaptation and achieved a more accurate assessment of risks, and that plans must be revised and adjusted continuously.

Danish green think tank CONCITO has prepared the report which also includes recommendations on how planning can be improved across administrative levels in Denmark.   

In Denmark, climate change brings higher temperatures, increased rainfall, sealevel rise and generally more extreme weather. It’s a challenge that calls for both reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and adapting society to climate change. To assist municipal climate efforts, the philanthropic association Realdania, Local Government Denmark (KL), the five Danish regions, and CONCITO initiated the DK2020 project back in 2019. 

Through the DK2020 initiative municipalities receive guidance and support to develop local climate action plans in line with the targets set with the Paris Agreement that show the way towards climate neutrality no later than 2050 and demonstrate how the municipality will adapt to climate change. 95 out of 98 Danish municipalities have joined the DK2020 initiative, and most of them have completed the process of developing a climate action plan. In addition, Copenhagen has developed an equivalent climate action plan through the city’s membership of the international city network C40, which inspired the DK2020 initiative in the first place.  

The new report ‘Adaptation approaches in Danish municipalities climate action plans’ gather insights on municipalities’ work with climate adaption through DK2020 and assesses the potential for future improvements towards a climate resilient society. 

“It's very positive that all municipalities in Denmark have a plan for their climate adaptation. But the work doesn't stop here. Now the plans need to be translated into concrete actions, and ideally, the planning process should continue – because climate change will continue to transform our cities for many years to come. At the same time, it is important also to consider the general quality of urban life in our local climate planning and actions. In the long run that provides higher value - both concerning the actual climate adaptation and in ensuring sustained high quality of life in the cities,” says project manager at Realdania, Mikkel Suell Henriques. 

The main points and recommendations 

The report presents three main points: 

  1. DK2020 has engaged almost all Danish municipalities, covering urban communities large and small. Today, the municipalities have a more accurate assessment of risk in relation to climate change, and they have adopted measures that can ease the consequences of climate change. 

  2. Extreme weather events such as floods, extreme precipitation, heat waves and droughts increase the municipalities’ awareness of the need for climate change adaptation.

  3. It is important that climate action plans are continuously revised, and measures reassessed, so that plans can be adjusted in case of new knowledge, new financing opportunities or changes in political support. 

The report also provides a number of recommendations on how municipalities can further progress their work on climate adaptation. Among these is a call for relevant stakeholders and authorities to establish a shared language and target for climate adaptation efforts. Additionally, there is a reminder that more knowledge is still needed concerning the risks and consequences of droughts, heat waves, and high temperatures. 

“Ensuring a common direction and prioritization on how we collectively create a climate resilient society is essential. There is a need for ongoing capacity building and strengthened interaction between research and practice, as well as coordination between the state and municipalities to ensure that planning is always based on updated knowledge. Therefore, it is particularly important that framework conditions are in place, including for future land use within and across municipalities," says Mia Holmbo Lind, climate analyst at CONCITO and one of the authors of the report. 

The recommendations have been prepared by CONCITO. On December 2nd, they will be shared with the rest of the world when a delegation with members from the DK2020 project participates in the event 'A Danish Climate Journey: Local action delivering to 76% GHG reductions through multi-level partnerships' at COP28.

Read a summary of the report here