Research Spotlight: C40 and partners convene 17 cities in Copenhagen to discuss plans for 80% emissions reductions through 2050

In this latest edition of our ongoing Research Spotlight series, we hear from Eric Ast, C40 Research Analyst on an important new research project to understand and advance the efforts of global cities leading the way in setting the most ambitious emissions reduction targets – Seth Schultz, C40 Director of Research, Measurement and Planning.

Since the release of the IPCC’s third working group report in 2007, an 80% reduction in emissions from 2000 levels has become a benchmark for limiting global warming, meeting the 2°C target, and reducing the most severe impacts of climate change. While the target has been set, there’s been limited work to date in understanding the path forward that cities are paving in pursuit of these deep, long-term emissions reductions.

Over the last year, C40, in partnership with the Urban Sustainability Directors Network and the Innovation Network for Communities, and with support from the Kresge Foundation, has focused on understanding the state of long-term climate action planning in world-leading cities. C40 has examined the plans of 17 cities – Berlin, Boston, Boulder, Copenhagen, London, Melbourne, Minneapolis, New York*, Oslo, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Stockholm, Sydney, Vancouver, Washington, DC, and Yokohama – that have committed to an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050. Earlier this month, the City of Copenhagen hosted a workshop for cities involved in this study to discuss research findings and build a pathway towards collaboration in achieving their ambitious emissions reduction goals.

We have examined topics ranging from current city demographics and emissions profiles, to engagement with other governmental and private-sector stakeholders, and implementation strategies - all with the aim of understanding how cities can support one another.  Review of over 3,500 pages of city planning strategies and 100 hours of interviews with city staff provided an in-depth understanding of the cities’ plans.  This work, in conjunction with actions and powers data reported by cities in our flagship publication, Climate Action in Megacities (CAM) 2.0, provides an unparalleled view of the actions these cities are taking, planning to take, and the level of power cities exercise over key segments of their plans.

Over the course of our recent three-day meeting in Copenhagen, C40 presented key research findings and the participating cities worked with one-another to focus future collaboration on three potential areas:

  1. Developing Planning Standards – To align cities in the definition of emissions inventories, development of climate action plans, and mechanisms for plan measurement and tracking.
  2. Advocating for Policy Change – To collectively overcome many of the regulatory barriers impeding progress towards deep carbon reduction by advocating for policies at the local, regional and federal levels.
  3. Enabling “Transformative Change” in Key Sectors – Through sharing of best practices and strategies to drastically reduce emissions from transportation, energy use, and waste systems.


In the coming months, C40 will collaborate with partners and funders of this research project to define a three-year plan.  This work will benefit C40 member cities with long-term climate action plans by uncovering opportunities for collaboration, and helping those without plans to acquire greater understanding of key drivers for deep emissions reductions.  C40 is excited to conduct this vital research and lead the way in working with cities on how to reduce emissions drastically by 2050.

To learn more about the cities involved in C40’s “80/50 Project”, please visit

* New York has not made a public commitment to an 80% reduction.