Bottom up Adaptation Strategies for a Sustainable Europe

Participatory methods applied in adaptation planning (Kalundborg, Denmark)


The Climate Challenge

The municipality of Kalundborg has approximately 12,000 residents and is situated on the western corner shoreline of Zealand, Denmark. While municipalities on the west coast of Jutland are used to dealing with storm surges from the North Sea, this and other coastal areas have previously been better protected from surges and have dealt with them less frequently.

The land behind the coastline has a delta-like lowland character that makes the area vulnerable to extreme weather conditions like storm-surges, flooding and sea level rise. The study area (14.000 hectare) includes a peninsula, a large lake, a large near-shore and low-lying summer cottage area and also permanent habitation, large agricultural areas, nature resorts, ground- and surface-water interests, and tourist and cultural assets. The accumulated cost of damages to private properties by 2090 is estimated by a private consultancy, NIRAS, to be approximately €242 million.


The Adaptation Response

Kalundborg Municipality and the Danish Board of Technology (DBT) carried out a comprehensive and path-breaking participatory approach involving local stakeholders and citizens to prepare for a municipal Climate Change Adaptation Plan. The resulting plan was adopted in 2014 by the Kalundborg Municipal Council. The participatory aspect of the plan was part of the EU-INTERREG project “BaltCICA” on climate adaptation in the Baltic Sea Region, which ran from 2009 to 2012 and included, inter-alia, a two-day scenario-workshop and a citizens´ summit. In BASE, the participatory process itself was examined, as well as the the impact of participation on the final adaptation plan.

The focus was on the ability or willingness of the authorities to incorporate local views into their short- and long-term adaptation planning.


The People and Institutions Involved

The Danish Board of Technology ensured a close dialogue with the Kalundborg Municipal Committee for Engineering and Environment from the very beginning and throughout the participatory process. After the citizens´ summit, the Danish Board of Technology prepared an analysis of the possible political implications of the voting results and presented it to the Committee, which took cognizance of these recommendations and asked the city’s Department of Engineering and Environment to include these in the adaptation plan. The Department established a small working group to draft the adaptation plan itself.


The Outcome of Action

The participatory process had a tangible impact on the resulting climate adaptation plan. A very concrete result of citizens’ involvement, for example, is that the plan points out by name specific summerhouse areas where climate risks are so high that it may be necessary to reconsider the location. This measure was controversial due to the resulting loss in property value and would likely have never been included by policymakers alone, who might prefer residents to invest rather than divest in their properties. The process also indicated the financial and legal challenge of changing the status of certain areas from summerhouses to wetlands.



Søren Gram

Andreas Hastrup Clemmensen


Relevant Links


Full Report

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



Photo © Danish Board of Technology Foundation