Nordic Climate Neutral Cities

Nordic Climate Neutral Cities investigates how municipalities in the Nordic Region seek to become climate neutral, with a focus on spatial planning tools and practices. The project will consider how climate plans shape urban fields such as the built environment, transport and mobility, and energy production/consumption and look at the intersection of densification and carbon emissions.

The project adopts a holistic approach to climate neutrality, placing environmental issues in dialogue with economic and social issues, and seeks to understand how to achieve climate-neutral goals alongside financial needs and social equity. Additional questions that will be pursued in the project include: How is climate change affecting Nordic cities in the short and long term? What are the key problems regarding carbon emissions, and how have they been defined/measured? How can urban leaders make decisions when environmental, economic, and social issues are at odds?

To provide a reply to these questions, a thorough review of the literature will bring clarity to what climate-neutral cities entail. Attention will be given to methodologies and indicators to measure climate neutrality and the performance of urban form regarding emissions. This will allow a critical discussion about the social, economic and environmental synergies and trade-offs of compact cities in delivering climate neutrality as well as on the different perspectives (production 0r consumption) to account for urban emissions.

The review also will scrutinise tools and strategies to address climate neutrality through spatial planning, governance models and policy pathways (e.g., circular economy, nature-based solutions) and instruments to encourage carbon-neutral cities. This knowledge is fundamental to defining what climate-neutral city mean in the Nordic context and to provide a framework for examining plans, initiatives and actions aiming at climate neutrality in nine cities across five Nordic countries. These case studies will open opportunities to compare and contrast different tools and strategies, and governance models and identify efficient pathways and policy approaches to pursue climate neutrality. Furthermore, it will inform Nordic cities with similar preconditions on how to develop planning and governance solutions that address climate concerns efficiently not only in regard to environmental aspects but also in social and economic ones.

This knowledge will be vital to initiating a joint Nordic discussion in which local planners and authorities representing different sectors will share experiences, know-how and learnings through different dissemination activities. This guarantees that the lessons learned in the project will achieve the policy realm advancing on how Nordic cities plan for climate neutrality through spatial planning.

Nordic Climate Neutral Cities is part of an assignment for the Nordic Thematic Group on Green and Inclusive Urban Development in the Nordics (2021-2024).