How to roadmap the transition to climate-neutral cities?

Photo by Matt Duncan on Unsplash

Over the past months, we worked on TOMORROW’s methodological guidelines. These willsupport cities in  developing a transition roadmap for climate neutral cities in 2050. We refer to this as the “transition roadmapping process”: a searching and learning process based on transition governance principles as developed by DRIFT. These guidelines support local authorities to accelerate the transition to climate neutrality by implementing a transition roadmapping process.

Rather than a ready-made blueprint, we aim at providing “ingredients” that cities can use to create their own “local recipe” for making a roadmap. We are going to monitor this process of adaptation to the local context during the project. Ultimately, we aim forthese guidelines, together with insights on local implementation, will support cities globally to bridge long-term climate-neutrality ambitions with short-term actions.

At this point, these guidelines are a “work in progress”. They will be tested and co-developed with the pilot cities of TOMORROW over the course of the project. As such, the draft guidelines will be updated, consolidated and republished in March 2022.

Step 1: position your city in the transition

The first step of transition roadmapping is to create an understanding of the systems cities want to target. The underlying question  is: “What are the transition dynamics in your city?” While it is impossible to pinpoint a city’s exact coordinates on a transition map, becoming aware of local dominant dynamics is a first step towards deciding what actions are required to advance a transition towards a climate-neutral city. At the end of this step, cities will better understand local dynamics in the transition to climate-neutrality.

As part of Step 1, TOMORROW’s cities will:

We provided two diagnostics tools (“D-tools”) that cities can use to deepen their understanding of the systems they are targeting. These analytical tools support them to take stock of transition dynamics in their territories, and identify existing challenges and opportunities.

D-tool #1: Understand your system’s dynamics

D-tool #1 consists of different templates that help users to describe the characteristics of the transition dynamics. This D-tool builds on the X-curve model, which provides a frame to understand the motions of transitions.

X-curve model (Loorbach 2017)
X-curve model (Loorbach 2017)

It describes the societal process in which new innovations challenge the status quo, and might eventually change or replace it, as well as how systems might experience breakdown and phase out. In using this analytical framework, cities  consider how different dynamics might be present in their city’s systems. By identifying these dynamics, cities then know what the needs are in the system: what needs to be supported, countered, or addressed?

A screenshot of D-tool 1
A screenshot of D-tool #1

D-tool #2: Types of governance activities

Following D-tool #1, D-tool #2 helps separate the different types of governance activities that are already happening in a given system. By reflecting on this, cities are challenged to consider what is needed to move beyond “policy as usual”, and towards transformational action. This template help to diagnose the activities that all actors in a system engage in, in relation to climate-neutral transitions. This analysis is another step towards choosing which transformative activities to implement.

A screenshot of D-tool #2
A screenshot of D-tool #2

Step 2: Determine your activities

Once cities have determined their system’s needs and have a good overview of existing governance activities, they can think about the intervention that has the biggest transformative potential in relation to their systems state, and the desired climate-neutral transition. Important here is the question of who is driving the transition roadmapping process – in TOMORROW these are local authorities.  Each actor has access to a different repertoire of interventions and therefore they might be more inclined towards those.

The roadmapping activities are likely to be a process, rather than a one-off activity. They include two streams:

  • one focused on a broader process including different societal actors
  • one focused on internal organisational structures at the local authority.

At this stage,  TOMORROW’s cities will set up a dynamic learning agenda, to update, monitor and learn from their actions throughout the process.

Want to learn more? You can find detailed information about each step and the D-tools in this draft document, where we also provide a background on transition studies literature and transition governance and a review on the state of the art of roadmapping.

Do you have any comment/question or suggestion? Get in touch with Tessa at