The role of cities in mitigating GHG emissions and thus tackling global warming has gained importance over the last years.Many cities have developed climate action plans, primarily to achieve long-term "low-carbon" mitigation goals set by national governments or (inter)national agreements. A mere adoption of high level targets, however, raises the question whether these targets are applicable for cities with very different framework conditions.
We argue that it is crucial to understand the socio-economic, geophysical, spatial, infrastructural and political framework of a city - a broad approach, which is generally missing in climate action plans. Thus, determining drivers and barriers for future development paths is neglected by local policies, which leads to a gap between ambition (target) and reality (implementation).
We exemplarily examine this hypothesis for the shrinking city of Oberhausen (Germany). Oberhausen, located in the Ruhr area,is a typical old industrial region, which has seen a decline of its industrial basis over the last decades. We analysed historical data and developed scenarios until 2030. Both show a significant decrease in CO2 emissions. A closer look, however, reveals that the reduction is primarily due to the economic transformation (less manufacturing, more service industry, accompanied by a decrease in population) and general energy efficiency developments following the implementation of national and EU policies. Although the city has implemented–and will further implement - many instruments and policies to reduce CO2 emissions, local barriers such as unemployment, low rents, low income, high per capita debts, etc. dramatically reduce the city's capacity for action.
The results show that Oberhausen's emission reductions do not reflect active energy policies but are mainly driven by an economic decline. To reach ambitious reduction targets, however, the city needs to be enabled to take action in achieving appropriate and reasonable targets.
Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie