Berlin Takes a Leading Role in Showing the Way to Climate Neutrality

Berlin Takes a Leading Role in Showing the Way to Climate Neutrality

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Germany Country Manager Zahi Badra

In recent years, many German cities approved new action plans in order to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. Among them is Germany’s largest city and capital, Berlin. As its plan stands in line of well structured, legally binding and research-backed plans of different cities in Germany, I chose to put the spotlight on Berlin because of several reasons: its challenging starting conditions, and its commitment to transparency – by publishing not just the action plans, but also all related studies, decision protocols and annexes, and making them available to the public. Most of them are available in German and English; and the fact that Berlin, as a city-state, was the first federal state in Germany to bind by law to a date until which no more energy would be produced from fossil fuels.

Berlin, a city-state of nearly 4 million inhabitants on the northeast of the country and the second largest city in the EU, is also a complex city to run. Berlin was renamed the German capital after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 1990 reunification. It has been a poor city, with major socio-economic differences, high unemployment and a heavily-polluting industry in its outskirts, remnant of the communist regime.

Therefore, it is already impressive that Berlin has reached its emission reduction goal of 40% until 2020 with such challenging starting conditions. In April 2019, the Berliner Senate, run by a left-green coalition, approved two new goals – a reduction of 60% by 2030, and climate neutrality by 2050.

In the detailed, practical chapter of the plan, available only in German, the measures are divided into mitigation (with five sub-categories) and adaptation (with 10 subcategories), under which the suggested measures are detailed. The subcategories under mitigation are: energy supply, buildings and city development, economy; traffic, and private households and consumption.

The main measure set in the plan, is the decision to discontinue any kind of energy production, for heat or electricity, based on fossil fuels, within the city-state by 2030. In addition, the array of measures includes a masterplan for deploying EV panels around the city and feasibility studies for wind and geothermal projects: phasing out fossil-fuel based heating by the end of the decade and setting high energy efficiency standards for new projects, a pilot project testing new concepts of sustainable street lighting and in the field of transportation – many measures are proposed to prioritize bikes and public transport, such as closing main streets to cars, integrating bike sharing into the city’s public transport system and improving the safety and availability of bicycle routes. Also, for the first time in decades, the construction of new subway lines (four have been approved and six more are in discussion). In addition, regulatory measures that would affect neighborhood planning, business licensing and large-scale renovations projects were put in place.

Parallel to the initial package of measures, a set of participatory and educational actions were introduced, including neighborhood meetings, round tables with business leaders, and school leaders.

As for financing the plan, an annex to the German plan explains that the measures would be partially funded by the state, in sums that would be adjusted every three years. For the first phase, 2019-2021, a sum of 94 million EUR was allocated. Some of the measures would be funded through cooperation with third party actors. A list of relevant projects is detailed in specific project reports.

Alongside the plan, Berlin approved a monitoring framework, which dictates the establishment of a unique digital monitoring system, which will give in-depth technical analysis of the progression of the plan, the measures and its effects according to predefined standards and milestones. This system will be available for experts and decision makers as well as to the general public.

To conclude, the strength of the plan is in its thoroughness. It goes through every problem and tries to present a comprehensive set of intertwining solutions in a practical and realistic way. It binds the city’s commitment for the coming years through an allocated budget and legally binding milestones and monitoring mechanisms. The scaled structure, alongside the tight cooperation with the academic world with a large amount of studies bound to this plan, also allows for the city to learn and improve, and to make sure that funds are allocated to scientifically sound causes. Yet, this flexibility has a catch – since in case of a political shift in the coming elections, it may be that a future administration will not see a commitment to allocate the needed funds or will choose to reverse some of the processes initiated. For example, reducing access to private cars to the city center already has raised protests by the political right.

The plan and additional documents can be found on this site:

Feasibility study and action plan to discontinue fossil fuels by 2030:

Digital monitoring system:

A Table Illustrating Berlin’s Plan to Replace Coal

Contact: Beate Züchner, Head of the climate protection department in the state ministry of the environment, traffic and climate.

Prof. Dr. Bernd Hirschl, Speaker of the state administration advisory committee on climate protection


Illustration photo (credit: Nadine Kunath,


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