Together, local and national climate action can achieve groundbreaking results. The DK2020 project has united almost all of Denmark’s municipalities to create ambitious climate action plans. The huge impact of this collaboration has been published in a report ahead of COP28, where city leaders are ready to share their climate insight and expertise with national governments.

A world first for Denmark 

Denmark will soon become the first country in the world where every municipality has a climate action plan to reduce emissions and help keep global heating at safe levels. The impact of this collective effort has huge potential – Danish municipalities aim to cut 76% of Denmark’s total emissions by 2030, compared to 1990.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of this collaborative achievement. The world is falling far short of the goals of the Paris Agreement and is likely to breach the safe threshold of 1.5ºC by 2027. According to the UN, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions need to fall by 45% by the end of this decade compared to 2010 levels. Governments at all levels must lay out clear plans to cut their emissions, fast.

That is exactly what Danish mayors have been doing as part of the DK2020 project. It has united municipalities to create ambitious and robust climate action plans using C40’s Climate Action Planning Framework, which will collectively deliver emissions reductions on a transformative national scale. 

DK2020 was set up in 2019 by Danish philanthropic association Realdania, inspired by C40’s Deadline 2020 programme. Collaboration with Local Government Denmark and the five Danish regions was instrumental in expanding the initial pilot programme of 20 and inviting all municipalities to join. Green think tank CONCITO and C40 Cities are knowledge partners.

Today, 95 out of 98 Danish municipalities have climate action plans aligned with the Paris Agreement. By the end of 2024, all 98 municipalities across the five Danish regions are expected to have these plans in place or in development.

The impact of collective action  

A report published ahead of COP28 makes clear just how impactful the DK2020 climate action plans are. By taking action across sectors such as energy, transport and agriculture, Danish municipalities aim to reduce GHG emissions from a baseline of 48.5 million tonnes (2017–2020) to 18.3 million tonnes by 2030. The largest transformation is expected from transitioning the energy sector to clean and renewable sources, achieving a 92% reduction in fossil fuel emissions.

In 2020, Denmark set a target to reduce its national emissions by 70% by 2030 compared to 1990. Inspired by this national climate leadership, 95% of Danish municipalities have set goals to reduce their emissions by 70% or more by 2030. With the successful implementation of all municipal climate action plans, local leaders could reduce emissions by 73% by 2030, helping realise Denmark’s national target. 

This vital local action in Denmark all adds up to a transformative impact at the national scale. Climate action by municipalities will account for: 

  • 68% of the national energy target of 23,000 GWh generated by new land-based wind turbines. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of over 3.2 million Danes – over half the population of Denmark.1
  • Over 50,000 hectares of new forest by 2030. This would deliver up to 80% of Denmark’s national tree planting and forestation targets. 
  • 60,000 hectares of wetlands to help store carbon and protect biodiversity, including by re-wetting farmland. Denmark’s national ambition is to create 100,000 hectares of wetland by 2030. 

Cities across the C40 network consistently prove local climate action moves at an impactful pace. While current NDCs put us on a path for over 2°C of global heating,  almost all C40 cities already have a transition plan in place aligned with the emissions, adaptation and equity goals of the Paris Agreement. 

It is clear that when working together to achieve ambitious targets, national and local climate action achieves impressive results. 

Aerial view of Copenhagen skyline and Amagertorv town square with fountain, Denmark - stock photo
© Alexander Spatari / Getty Images
How has DK2020 mobilised the whole of Denmark?  

This coordinated climate action planning by Denmark’s municipalities is no accident. The DK2020 project has been driven by political will and climate leadership from Danish mayors and partners. This has helped raise awareness of inspirational climate measures already implemented across Denmark, as well as the opportunities and challenges municipalities face. 

The DK2020 project has encouraged municipalities to strengthen collaboration across municipal departments, and mainstream mitigation and adaptation actions with an inclusive, equitable approach. It has also provided a collective voice and shared platform for municipalities to collaborate, seek support and share ideas and experiences.

All climate action plans have been developed in close collaboration with local communities, by engaging residents, businesses and other local stakeholders. It has helped reinforce the message that we all have a part to play in solving the climate crisis.

What’s next? 

All DK2020 partners have extended their commitment until 2027 with the Climate Alliance, a new partnership that supports Danish municipalities to move from climate planning to climate action. From 2024, the first Danish municipalities will begin updating their climate action plans to align with C40’s new draft Cities Climate Transition Framework; the new framework improves upon C40’s existing Climate Action Planning Framework, incorporating suggestions from the UN’s Integrity Matters report.

Cities worldwide have demonstrated climate leadership and ambition by setting net-zero targets. However, they need further financial and policy-driven support at the national and global levels to help turn their commitment into action and accountability. As COP28 negotiations begin in Dubai, local leaders are ready to work with national governments to set and implement climate targets, unlock resources, build capacity for action and accelerate progress across key sectors. Denmark is an excellent example of what that looks like in practice.

During the first-ever Local Climate Action Summit at COP, national governments and negotiators should look to DK2020 and Danish leaders’ action for inspiration. Mayors’ invaluable expertise in local planning and implementation can and should be incorporated into national and international climate policy design.

In just three years, almost all of Denmark’s municipalities have developed Paris Agreement-compliant climate action plans to deliver ambitious emissions reductions before 2030. Replicating this in all nations would help get the world on track to solve the climate crisis and work towards creating a safe, healthy planet where everyone can thrive.

1. According to Our World in Data, the average Danish person’s annual CO2 emissions were 5.1 tCO2e in 2021. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator shows 23,000 GwH of renewable energy generated avoids 16,299,697 tCO2e – the equivalent of the annual emissions of 3.2 million Danes.

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