Copenhagen CO2 neutrality in 2025? A polycentric analysis of urban climate governance in Copenhagen 2006–2020

Karsten Bruun Hansen*, Annika Agger

*Corresponding author

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In 2009, the City of Copenhagen declared its objective to become the first CO2-neutral city in the world by 2025 by practicing a collaborative climate governance approach. However, a 2020 status reported a further need for decarbonisation of at least 33% to reach this target. By applying a synthesised polycentric concept—supplemented by participatory climate governance studies—we analyse the deficient results of collaborative climate governance in Copenhagen 2006–2020. The empirical analysis reveals an altered political prioritisation of climate issues in 2010 and, as a crucial aspect of that, an inadequate mobilisation of civic society actors and waning departmental collaboration. We conclude that, since 2010, Copenhagen has mainly applied a rather monocentric governance approach and relied on technological innovation instead of behavioural change via civic society mobilisation, which does not promote sufficient carbon mitigation processes to reach carbon neutrality in 2025. Finally, we discuss what the synthesised polycentric concept adds to the debate about bold urban climate governance and how it could be further developed. Empirically, we draw on document analysis and interviews with 32 key actors in Copenhagen.

TidsskriftEnvironmental Policy and Governance
Udgave nummer3
Sider (fra-til)288-300
Antal sider13
StatusUdgivet - jun. 2023


  • mobilisation of civic society
  • participatory climate governance
  • polycentric theory
  • urban climate governance

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