Bottom up Adaptation Strategies for a Sustainable Europe

Implementation of the Copenhagen "Cloudburst" Strategy (Copenhagen, Denmark)


The Climate Challenge

Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark and a regional metropolis located on flat coastal terrain with canals from the sea flowing though the old city centre. Due to its coastal location, the city is vulnerable to sea level rise and flooding. The city is furthermore vulnerable to flooding from increasing precipitation because of its build-up environment and a century-old underground wastewater system, which collects rainwater and is made to withstand only 10-year rains.  In July and August 2011, cloudbursts left central parts of the city flooded and imposed insurance costs reaching €0.8 billion. Additionally, being a densely populated and extensively built area, the city is facing urban heat islands resulting from increasing temperatures.


The Adaptation Response

By 2011, the city produced a comprehensive Adaptation Plan, adding the Cloudburst Plan in 2012 and making specific allocations in the city budget for adaptation measures. The main adaptive actions comprise separating surface water (rainwater) from the underground wastewater system (making city resilient up to 100 year rains); refitting urban spaces to create rainwater channels along selected roads, leading to the lakes and/or the sea; greening and ‘blueing’ public spaces for local retention of water; climate proofing buildings and transport infrastructure; and generally integrating adaptation concerns into other policy areas, including community regeneration.


The People and Institutions Involved

The Adaptation and Cloudburst Plans and accompanying measures aim to establish the co-sharing of adaptation between the City of Copenhagen, citizens and other private actors. The majority of relevant information is available at the city homepage for free, and the Technical and Environmental Administration also offers assistance, for example at environmental offices located in local communities in the city. The city administration has furthermore included HOFOR, the regional water company, and invited local business and clean tech companies to develop local solutions as a way to concomitantly stimulate green growth and make use of local business expertise.


The Outcome of Action

In December 2015, a list of 300 adaptation actions to be implemented over the next 20 years was endorsed by the City Council. Adaptation policies and actions have been integrated with the city development based on strong green growth, liveable public and private spaces and a growing attention to the use of nature-based solutions while also building adaptation knowledge and skills in the local administration. In concrete initiatives, the city has established Sct Kjelds Neighbourhood as an experimental urban area where citizens, NGOs, small businesses, etc. are invited to develop local solutions, especially for rainwater retention. These activities are supported by a local centre for climate and neighbourhood regeneration that facilitates local collaborations, and shares expertise, innovative knowledge and technical knowhow.



The strategy is located in the Technical and Environmental Administration which administers the Adaptation Strategy and Plan, initiates and manages adaptation projects and measures and develops the strategy to meet future challenges.

The Administration is located at:

Climate, City of Copenhagen,

Njaldsgade 13, 2300 Copenhagen S,


+45 3366 3366

Anne Jensen, ph +45 8715 8633, & Andreas Hastrup Clemmensen


Relevant Links

The City of Copenhagen maintains an updated homepage for policies and plans aimed at adapting the city to the impacts of the changing climate.

The extensive homepage in Danish:

The homepage in English:


Full Report

The full report of this case study can be read here.


Photo © Fotolia / Rico K.