Climate Emergency in Osnabrück

Climate emergency in Osnabrück: Assessing climate impacts in decision-making

Osnabrück, a German city with 160,000 inhabitants, is currently playing a pioneering role in municipal climate action. In the summer of 2019, the city declared climate emergency, without using the term itself. The city council agreed to step up efforts on municipal climate policy and pledged, like most climate emergency municipalities in Germany, to consider the climate impacts of future municipal decisions. So how can this be put into practice? Osnabrück provides insights.

Since 1 October 2019, climate impacts must be stated in all municipal resolution proposals. The submitting parties receive a fact sheet providing guidance on how to assess climate impacts in the proposal by checking a box for positive, negative or no impact. If they check the box for positive or negative, the Department for Environment and Climate Action must examine the proposal and sign off on it.

The department has developed its own verification system especially for the evaluation of proposed resolutions. The focus here is on the quantity and the duration of CO2 emissions. For preliminary assessment of emissions, the city also relies on Climate Alliance tools such as the Climate Action Planer (Klimaschutz-Planer). The results of this evaluation are then classified as low, medium or high. Depending on the classification, further measures such as the search for alternative solutions can be initiated to either ease negative effects or further enhance positive ones. When approving electric cars, for example, the provision of green electricity or the usage of photovoltaic systems can also be examined and taken into consideration.

In the first two months from the beginning of October to the beginning of December 2019, 16 proposals had already been assessed, eight of which with negative climate impacts and eight with positive impacts. The Department of Environment explored alternatives for six of the proposals (three with negative impacts and three with positive impacts), and was thus able to greatly improve climate performance.

After one year, in October 2020, the city will evaluate its resolution and the asso-ciated measures from a time, personnel and financial perspective. The staff, however, is already positive about the future. Much has been learned after a short time, ensuring processes can be made more efficient and proposals examined more quickly. Osnabrück also sees a great opportunity in exchange between cities and municipalities so that lessons learned, ideas for optimisation, data and experiences can be shared. In this way, the climate emergency movement can tangibly and sustainably reinforce municipal climate action.

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    written April 2020

    Photo: Unsplash