Germany: Model Community Climate Mitigation Programs


Germany has advanced mitigation programs at the local and country levels. Few specific medium-sized cities have long-developed mitigation programs and policies. However, there is one that not only developed early on but has also developed a well-developed adaptation plan as well, and hence is my chosen one to be portrayed:

Münster is a middle-sized city with about 315K inhabitants (as of 2019); “for more than 25 years, the City of Münster has been actively engaged in municipal climate protection work. The Coordination Office for Climate and Energy – KLENKO for short – is a staff unit of the Lord Mayor and the driving force behind municipal climate protection and climate adaptation work. Under the motto “Our Climate 2030″, the city of Münster is striving for climate neutrality by 2030 and adaptation to the consequences of climate change”. (City’s Website). They now have a motto: “Münsterland is Climate Land,” and the City was awarded the “German Sustainability Price 2019”.

“In Münster, mitigation policy started in 1995, when the city established its Coordination Office for Climate and Energy, published its first action program for climate mitigation, and joined the Climate Alliance. In 2015, Münster introduced its first adaptation strategy, which was already in preparation when a severe pluvial flood affected almost the entire city in 2014 (Spekkers et al. 2017). Today, two out of eight employees of the Coordination Office focus solely on climate adaptation.”

The city currently offers programs for helping its citizens reduce emissions on different fronts:

Renewable Energy: “In the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, “Münsterland” (as is called the city and its surrounding areas) is the clear pioneer in the expansion of renewable energies. In 2021, 50.4 percent of the energy consumed was generated from renewable sources.” (City’s region website).

  • Solar energy is specially promoted: “The electricity generated that cannot be consumed at home is fed into the grid of the local electricity supplier. In return, homeowners receive a fixed minimum payment for 20 years, the so-called feed-in tariff, which was increased again in 2023 with the Renewable Energy Sources Act.” It is promoted that “by installing a photovoltaic system, you not only make an important contribution to the energy transition in Münsterland but also increase the value of your home.” (City’s Website).
  • They argue that “as a rule, a system is worthwhile even without additional subsidies.” However, since 2023, buyers have also saved the VAT on purchasing a PV system.
  • The city also promotes a region offering a PV calculator and other such digital tools that are freely available to estimate how quickly their PV system will pay for itself under current conditions.
  • Also, some programs are designed for tenants, and citizens are encouraged to join Citizens’ energy cooperatives. “Membership in a citizens’ energy cooperative is a good way to make a sustainable investment in local wind and solar projects. The regional roots and the associated added value are major plus points. Several citizens’ energy cooperatives exist in Münsterland” (City’s website).
  • Heating systems renovation is a nationwide project that offers financial support for preparing an individual renovation roadmap at the federal and local regional levels.
  • The city also offers its citizens subsidies and encouragement through local consulting to perform renovation work to improve homes’ energy efficiency:
    • “The “Renovation Guide Münsterland” tells owners how to approach a renovation properly and what to consider in each project phase. With a clear structure, descriptive graphics, and checklists for your implementation, the guide leads its readers through the redevelopment process.” It’s encouraged to contact the climate protection manager of the municipality in case of questions.
    • It’s also encouraged for owners to “switch away from fossil energy sources; there is an attractive subsidy from the federal government for heating system replacement. Special electricity tariffs for heat pumps are cheaper than the normal household electricity tariff.”


The city encourages its citizens to increase the use of bikes every time possible.

  • The city’s website highlights that “the legislator promotes company bicycles through taxation to relieve traffic and protect the environment.”
  • It highlights the “availability of 4,500 kilometres of cycle paths”. Thus, “That’s why more than 20 percent of commuters in Münsterland now use bicycles – almost three times as many as the NRW (local state) average.”
  • Like many other major cities, Munster also offers a bike renting system: MünsterlandRad! Bikes are available at several locations throughout Münsterland and can be booked spontaneously and quickly. They are contactless directly at the bike stand using an app. The Münsterland bikes are rented exclusively digitally and independently of opening hours, and users do not need to be pre-registered. The cost of renting a bike ranges from 1 euro per hour to 13 euros per day, depending on usage time.
  • This program seems successful, not only among students (as this city has a major university). According to their website, “every inhabitant of Münster spends around 20 minutes a day in the saddle of a bicycle and rides along some of the 470 kilometres of cycle paths in the city. Almost 40 percent of all journeys in the city are made by bike. Many people travel by cargo bike (which can be subsidized when bought), and extra parking spaces have been designated for this purpose.”
  • Even citizens also lend a hand themselves in building bike paths: In Münsterland, 270 kilometers of cycle paths were developed as citizens’ cycle paths from 2005 to 2018 – i.e., with the support of local citizens and businesses.

Usage of public transportation is also encouraged, and environmentally friendly transport is rewarded:

  • When citizens travel around Münsterland by bike, bus, or train, they can “collect climate tokens, reduce CO2, and get rewarded using the free app Münsterbewegt (Münstermoves). It automatically calculates users’ CO2 footprint and rewards them for being environmentally friendly on the road.
  • “Münster bewegt” tells you how many CO2 emissions you produce when you travel by car, bus, train, taxi, or bicycle. And if you choose sustainable alternatives, you will be rewarded: the more environmentally friendly means of transport you use, the more climate targets you collect. You can then redeem them for rewards at participating partners in Münsterland.” (City’s website)

The city of Münster also has plenty of nature reserves and land conservation areas. The city only (not including the whole region) has 16 natural reserves with an area of 2,135 hectares, which is 7% of the city area (as of 2019). In fact, “within the Münster city boundaries, there are over 8,700 hectares of landscape protection areas, 1,900 hectares of nature conservation sites and 1,200 hectares of bird sanctuaries, including the “Rieselfelder,” once a sewage farm and now an EU reserve for wading and water birds – and a paradise for ornithologists and nature lovers.”(City’s website)  In Münster, nature reserves are designated through the landscape plans. Only the cross-city Davert nature reserve was established as a regulation by the Münster district government. The lower nature conservation authority is responsible for looking after the nature reserves. Optimization and regular care are often necessary to achieve the protective purpose. (City’s website)

The city’s current sustainability plan: “Sustainability Strategy Münster 2030,” was first developed in the framework of the city’s participation in the “Global Nachhaltige Komune NRW”: a local state project with 38 cities/communities participating belonging to the North Rhine Westfalen state.  In 2019, this plan’s parameters were developed to rule until 2022, and it was decided that it would be reviewed and updated every four years. This plan has designed 17 global sustainability goals, ranging from renewable energy usage to no poverty. Specifically, climate protection and energy efficiency aim to reduce energy consumption by half and be climate-neutral by 2030.

The first city sustainability report and plan was initially defined with the resolutions on the “Local Agenda 21 Münster” in 1999, which included the mandate to prepare a sustainability report. In 2000, the administration developed the first sustainability report with participants in the 2001/2002 Agenda process. This was updated in the following years with the involvement of the Local Agenda 21 Münster working group and published as an independent chapter of the annual statistics.

It is planned to present its first sustainability report in mid-2023, which will be prepared in accordance with the new municipal reporting standard “Reporting Framework for Sustainable Municipalities (BNK).” The BNK standard for municipalities was developed by the Council for Sustainable Development in a stakeholder dialogue last year based on the “German Sustainability Code” for companies. Münster contributed to developing the BNK standard and will be one of the first municipalities nationwide to test the sustainability reporting standard. This report hasn’t yet been published, though.

However, the city records and publishes several statistics and datasets related to climate and environment, including the city’s CO2 emissions table, which currently shows data for 2021 and regularly holds a 2-year time lag.  The data recorded shows a decrease of CO2 emissions of 31% concerning 1990’s data, with reductions recorded for all sources as follows: Transport (14%), Industry (35%), Private homes (38%), and commerce/others (35%).

Moreover, the city of Münster counts on local private engagement in helping implement measures to mitigate climate change:

  • As mentioned above, for instance, building bike paths, as well as a citizen network called “Münster Nachhaltig” (Münster Sustainable), which was formed after a congress initiated in 2013 by the Sociology Institute and the City leading to actions such as “The sustainability day” where innovative ideas and initiatives regarding sustainability in education, energy, nutrition, clothing, Culture and social affairs, mobility, economics, Environment and ecology as well as living; which are shown in a park festival in the city, including also cultural, gastronomic and music offers).

The City also belongs to regional government associations and has been awarded several prices on sustainability initiatives (none/Active)

  • Global Nachhaltige Kommune NRM (Lag21 belonging to “engagement global” for producing standardized sustainability plans), as mentioned above??
  • There is since 1996 even an umbrella organization, the “Umwelt Forum Münster” (Environment Forum Münster), which gathers Münster’s environmental groups with a large room in the city center serving as its “contact point for all environmental activists, a networking center for the numerous member associations, a think tank for their joint, sustainable work and an administrative center” at the “Haus der Nachhaltigkeit” (House of sustainability). Umwelt Münster.
  • Münster has been an ESD model municipality since 2021. The project “BNE Competence Center for Education – Sustainability – Municipality (BiNaKom),” funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), has selected the city of Münster as one of 50 model municipalities nationwide to put the city on the path to education for sustainable development accompany. Together with the local government, the aim is to use ESD (Education for sustainable development) in all areas. As part of the collaboration, the ESD process will be further developed in two areas. On the one hand, the activities of the ESD regional center and the Münster ESD network are to be consolidated and expanded. In addition, the following steps are planned to implement ESD in the city administration, especially in the Office for Children, Young People, and Families and in the Office for Schools and Further Education. Thus, as mentioned, the city was awarded the German Sustainability Prize in 2019.
  • In May 2022, the German UNESCO Commission awarded the city of Münster the national “Education for Sustainable Development” prize for its commitment to education for sustainable development (ESD). The German UNESCO Commission, together with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), honored ten initiatives, educational institutions, and municipalities from eight federal states in Berlin with the prize, which was awarded for the first time. The winners were each honored with 10,000 euros. Münster was one of three municipalities, alongside Hamburg and Freiburg, to be awarded the BNE Prize in the educational landscapes category. The honor recognizes actors who are particularly successful in implementing education for sustainable development on a broad scale and who integrate it into their educational work in an outstanding way.
  • In fact, since 2018, the City of Münster – Office for Green Spaces, Environment, and Sustainability has been cooperating with the extracurricular environmental education center NABU Münsterland gGmbH. As one of many other ESD regional centers in North Rhine-Westphalia, the goal is to promote education for sustainable development and thus enable people to think and act sustainably. This is done by offering ESD education programs, supporting School of the Future, and networking with ESD in Münster. The BNE regional center in Münster is also active in the BNE state network for North Rhine-Westphalia.

Thus, the city of Münster has been described as a pioneer in sustainability and climate mitigation initiatives. Still, it has also developed an established climate adaptation plan. It has been awarded and displayed on its right the position of a sample and an exemplar city to be followed by larger and smaller communities alike for its private citizen engagement as well as the political willingness to make sustainability and climate mitigation activities and emissions reduction a fact, with such an ambitious goal and programs helping and educating the community to achieve them.

Multiple parties also hold this community’s efforts. “Since 2016, over 50 people from various civil society networks, advisory boards, political council groups, science, and administration have been involved in the Sustainability Advisory Board of the city of Münster. With their expertise, they take on a central advisory and accompanying role in the sustainability process and develop concrete recommendations for the Münster City Council. This ensures that a sustainability-oriented development of the city is designed together with urban society.” City’s Advisory Board of the Global Sustainable Community Münster. It includes participants from, for instance, the local University (Sociology and Institute for Sustainable Nutrition), the Institute for State and City Development Research, and several other private and public institutions.

However, at the city level, the primary contact person would be Mr. Arno Minas, Dezernent für Nachhaltigkeit (Head of Sustainability of the City of Münster, who has replaced Matthias Peck, who held the position for eight years in October 2023.)  His contact details are:

Beigeordneter: Stadtrat Arno Minas

Tel. (+49) 02 51/4 92-70 60

(City of Münster website).

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Germany Country Manager Katherine Cote de Kalscheuer


Otto Anje et al., “Ranking local climate policy: assessing the mitigation and adaptation activities of 104 German cities” (2021)


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