Author: Katherine Peinhardt

Within the 53 NetZeroCities Pilot Cities, many are thinking big – going beyond local action as they scale impact to the national level. In Multi-City Pilot Cities in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, and Spain, groups of cities are working together to take on systemic and transformative activities and get to climate neutrality. By scaling up in this collaboration, these cities are taking targeted action on climate at the national scale, innovating on energy efficiency in buildings, crafting new governance models, and piloting ways to make finance work for a climate transition, among others.  

Learn more about the Multi-City Pilot Cities: 

GERMANY – CoLAB Committed to Local Climate Action Building 

In three German cities, a new scheme of “radical collaboration” is taking shape. Aachen, Muenster, and Mannheim are working together as Pilot Cities to build a CoLAB, which will help them to link up as they engage citizens with municipal climate action. This work is based on a transformation model called the “House of Change,” in which each city facilitates involvement from its residents. The House of Change comprises many different “rooms,” representing channels for collaboration that will enable residents to take action more effectively, including: municipal co-creation, knowledge transfer and exchange, a bottom-up idea-matching, smart challenges innovation, cultural change, and stories of local success. Bringing residents into the process means that these Pilot Cities will have a representative and effective base driving forward activities that get them closer to climate neutrality. 

Each of the three cities has a unique way of applying this collaborative “House of Change” approach as part of the CoLAB. In Mannheim, this is being carried out through what is called the “IDEAL for Mannheim” platform to create and identify ways for local stakeholders to take action and connect with others. In Aachen, a 2030 Agency will soon provide a space for interaction between residents and a dedicated management unit for Aachen’s 2030 climate goals. At the same time, Muenster is building a digital tool to support citizens in making lifestyle changes in alignment with the City’s 2030 climate goals.  

Working together on these activities will amplify impact from the local scale to the national scale. Aachen, Muenster, and Mannheim have already identified shared challenges in getting to climate neutrality. According to CoLAB partners, the cities have “identified the emissions areas of electricity and heat consumption, mobility, consumption-related emissions from land use, waste/disposal as the overarching challenge to achieve climate goals and one of the most difficult tasks to solve. For the gaps/barriers in these consumption-related emissions, CoLAB tests and implements solutions.” To address these challenges, the cities will draw upon their citizen engagement activities to find “tipping points for changing behaviour from individual to collective action.” 

In Mannheim, it is clear to partners that the three cities are all working on “anchoring their climate action plans in the Climate City Contracts,” and that “the CoLAB project makes a decisive contribution to this by building bridges between the sectoral focal points of biodiversity, food, agriculture, energy, industry, construction, mobility, environment and climate protection and linking these with a comprehensive involvement of all actors and co-creative citizen engagement.” This exercise in connecting the dots between people and areas of impact is poised to reinforce these German cities’ ambition as they make a plan for a local climate transition. 

NETHERLANDS – Dutch 100CNSC Cities Pilot 

Seven cities in the Netherlands have formed a Multi-City Pilot focused on boosting climate investments: Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Groningen, Helmond, Rotterdam, the Hague, and Utrecht. These Dutch cities are testing out new ways of approaching local climate finance to examine opportunities to leverage private and government funds towards climate neutrality, aligning different financing streams to scale up projects.  

One driving idea behind the Dutch Multi-City Pilot activities is to bundle together projects being undertaken at the district level, thereby opening the possibility for more streamlined routes to financing — making climate-related projects happen through a combination of public and private funds. The cities provide the example of the construction of a district heating network, which could at the same time be grouped together with work on the municipal sewage system and the creation of a new park or public space. Under this new approach, these activities could be clustered up for easier access to financing. Going further, brand-new District Investment Platforms in each of the seven cities will boost the creation of Climate Investment Plans, involving residents in the conversation as partners find ways to open up paths to innovative financing models.  

ITALY – Let’sGOv – GOverning the Transition through Pilot Actions 

The largest coalition of cities in the Pilot Programme, Italy has nine municipalities partnering up to take action governing the energy transition: Bergamo, Bologna, Florence, Milan, Padua, Parma, Prato, Rome, and Turin. Their “Let’sGOv” pilot activities focus on changing governance approaches around energy, thereby forging “new forms of energy alliances.” The Pilot activities in Italian cities will take shape at three levels: a network of the nine cities; thematic clusters focused on stakeholder engagement, data-sharing, and finance; and individual cities that will test out new approaches.  

Partners in the “Let’sGOv” Pilot Cities note that this will be transformative for the way they take on climate neutrality. In Prato, partners have noticed that the City’s climate neutrality goals and involvement in the Pilot Programme have provided a necessary push “to review the strategic documents of the municipality and to find a new internal governance key for the institution, more effective and efficient.” Meanwhile, partners in Florence already see this collaboration as an opportunity to bring more stakeholder engagement to the way the City’s Climate Task Force is run, opening it up to “external institutional stakeholders to facilitate knowledge sharing and data management.” In Turin, this networking has pushed partners to “review the transition process,” as they take a closer look at local goals on renewable energy and emissions reductions.   

The Multi-City Pilot activities in Italy are changing the ways that local governments not only interact with one another, but how they govern the systemic change needed to get to climate neutrality. 

POLAND – NEEST – NetZero Emission and Environmentally Sustainable Territories 

Poland’s Pilot Cities are also focusing on energy – specifically, energy efficiency in buildings. Between the five cities involved, Pilot Cities Programme partners will analyse social behaviour and technical needs as they move toward modernising buildings. In doing so, Krakow, Łódź, Rzeszów, Warsaw, and Wrocław are finding ways to confront the fact that close to 70% of their single-family homes do not meet energy efficiency standards. 

A wide range of building types will be examined in the Pilot Cities for opportunities to improve efficiency, from pre-1918 buildings to multi-family homes built in the 1970s, which will then become testbeds for new approaches. Krakow Pilot City partners note that “Pilot solutions will be prepared for representative building quarters or groups of buildings.” From there, a guidebook will be crafted for use in other buildings and cities across Poland based on the outcomes of the pilot solutions, triggering what partners hope becomes a series of widespread decarbonising efforts in the building sector.  

SLOVENIA – UP-SCALE-Urban Pioneers – Systemic Change Amid Liveable Environments 

The Slovenian cities of Kranj, Ljubljana, and Velenje are working on new ways of governing their climate transition – finding common ground for making Pilot City activities in different sectors work more effectively. While Kranj focuses on reducing mobility-related emissions, Ljubljana will center its work on finding uses for industrial and non-industrial (excess) waste heat and Velenje on the consumption of thermal energy in buildings. But as they embark on these different priorities, their collective sights are set on making their responses “more effective, transparent, and responsive.”  

As part of “UP-SCALE Urban Pioneers – Systemic Change Amid Livable Environments,” the goal is to find new approaches that can be shared in other communities facing similar challenges. The three cities will each create innovation hubs called one-stop shops to act as repositories for their findings, with Pilot City partners in Ljubljana emphasising the centrality of knowledge sharing to the cities’ plans: “We see the project UP-SCALE as an opportunity not only to start developing our own pathways towards climate neutrality, but also to gain new knowledge and become an inspiration to other Slovenian cities and beyond.” 

SPAIN – Multi-stakeholder Innovative and Systemic Solutions for Urban Regeneration 

In Spanish cities, the focus is on a collaborative approach to decarbonising the built environment and supporting renewable energy. Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Valencia, Valladolid, Vitoria-Gasteiz, and Zaragoza are working together in the Pilot Cities Programme to create participatory new processes for residents to weigh in on how residential and public buildings are retrofitted, and how renewables are scaled up in their communities. As the cities break ground on these processes, their shared aim is to shape and promote new ways of governing that can be applied to wider goals for a just climate transition, through initiatives like renewable energy communities. 

All of this is timely in cities like Barcelona, where partners see a significant need to address the buildings sector: “We have come a long way in improving energy efficiency, but we haven’t seen much progress in reducing the carbon footprint during construction and renovation of the existing stock.” But the Pilot Cities Programme is set to change that path for Spanish cities at large. In Valencia, public buildings, monuments, and other spaces will get particular attention in terms of more efficient lighting, cooling, and the addition of solar panels. There, the Pilot City activities will engage stakeholders ranging from “owners’ associations, property administrators, the construction sector, the financial sector, and the energy sector” as they create a Digital Twin for the energy transition, as well as a new Energy Transition Board. In Valladolid, partners look forward to the expansion of renewable energy production alongside use of “local techniques and materials to improve energy efficiency of buildings,” and the training of residents to share best practices in energy consumption as well as “associative models of clean energy generation.”  In Zaragoza, participation of local stakeholders will guide similar efforts to improve efficiency, while new renewable energy communities change the trajectory of the local energy transition. 

To make these solutions stick, the Pilot Cities are also looking into better and more collective-minded angles to finance the transition, especially in areas like the retrofitting of residential buildings. A new “financing model for rehabilitation” will focus on inclusion of vulnerable families through ideas like social guarantee funds, public-private partnerships for sustainable renovations, or refundable advances.  

Together, Spanish cities are finding ways to govern and implement actions toward climate neutrality, working across municipalities to find participatory, locally-driven ways to meet shared challenges like energy efficiency.  


The Pilot Cities Programme is transformative at its core, supporting cities for two years of innovation as they find ways to rapidly reduce their emissions and approach climate neutrality. The Multi-City Pilot Cities are adding an additional layer of collaboration to this programme, not only reaching across sectors and siloes to make change possible, but also across their respective countries.  

Team up with these Pilot Cities and others as part of the NetZeroCities Twinning Programme!