City of Heidelberg – Master Plan 100% for Climate Action

“Heidelberg is a master plan municipality where a large number of people are actively involved in climate action. By adopting largely climate-neutral lifestyles, we can halt climate change and ensure that our children and our children’s children have a healthy environment in which to live and grow.” Eckart Würzner, Lord Mayor of the City of Heidelberg.
Project information
Support programme 
Project duration 
01. May. 2012 to 28. Feb. 2019
Project funding reference number: 
Grant sum 
599.857 €
  • A working group at the Youth Climate Summit 2015
    © Andy Heuer
  • Discussing the outcome of the Youth Climate Summit 2015
    © Andy Heuer
  • A working group at the Climate Action Forum 2015
    © Philip Rothe
  • Panorama of Heidelberg
    © Alan Caplar – Heidelberg Marketing
  • A working group at the Youth Climate Summit 2015
  • Discussing the outcome of the Youth Climate Summit 2015
  • A working group at the Climate Action Forum 2015

Spotlight on Heidelberg

The City of Heidelberg is situated at the point where the river Neckar emerges from the Odenwald forest and flows into the Rhine valley some 116 metres above sea level. Together with the cities of Mannheim and Ludwigshafen, it is one of three urban centres in the metropolitan region of Rhein-Neckar which boasts some 2.36 million inhabitants. Heidelberg itself has a population of 140,000 and covers a total area of 109 square kilometres, 30 percent of which are populated and 40 percent of which are forest.

The populated part of Heidelberg comprises 15 districts, with some 900 streets and roads with a combined length of 493 kilometres. The city has a sophisticated public transport system and is connected to the metropolitan light rail network and the national railway.

Heidelberg and the challenges faced in taking climate action

Heidelberg is a prosperous city with a growing population, positive economic growth and innovative research and development. The rising number of people living in Heidelberg and the increase in housing space, jobs and buildings used for commerce and top-level research generate an ever-growing demand for energy. Meeting that demand while also improving energy efficiency and renewable energy use poses a particular challenge in climate action.

The task at hand, therefore, is to encourage stakeholders from industry and civil society to become even more active, get more involved and play a more coordinating and self-managing role in climate action. Up to now, the Heidelberg city authorities have led the way in local climate action initiatives, thus serving as a motivational force – an important role given that many other local actors need to considerably step up their climate action engagement. Across all sectors and in all areas of life, energy efficiency and climate action must become integral to both decision-making and work organisation processes, both in the workplace and at home.

Heidelberg's Master Plan for 100 % Climate Action

  • Concept design and citizen participation

    When the project was launched in summer 2012, an external institute was tasked with developing the master plan. The development team first conducted a carbon footprint analysis and then recommended strategies for use in making Heidelberg climate-neutral by 2050. They also conducted an in-depth stakeholder survey to collect input regarding the measures they would like to see. A key role in all of this has been played from the outset by a panel of experts from industry, science and research, government and administration, and non-governmental organisations. The panel assisted in developing the master plan and is also involved in its ongoing implementation.

    The citizens’ forum and the citizens’ workshop were selected from the various citizens’ participation models on offer. The aim was to reach a broad section of the population in order to encourage as many social groups and as many age groups as possible to become involved. Participation in designing the master plan took place via three closely-linked and scheduled events. The results were then integrated into the action areas contained in the master plan. During the implementation phase, the various stakeholders attempted to win as many local citizens as possible to the climate action cause and then involve them in climate action projects.

    See the City of Heidelberg website (German) for more information on the topic of climate action and energy.
  • Implementing the Master Plan

    At the end of the first phase of the master plan process, the team conducted a new carbon footprint analysis. This showed an 18 percent reduction in carbon emissions compared with the base year 1987, an excellent result given the parallel growth in industry, population and housing space. This can partly be attributed to the local climate action programme and especially to improved energy efficiency in buildings.

    The master plan process underpinned and activated the City of Heidelberg’s climate action strategy. The number of stakeholders has grown and the activities developed and implemented as part of the plan have shown positive results. Challenges still faced include the ongoing involvement of the people of Heidelberg and maintaining the incentive to continue implementing the plan.

    Selected projects

    Youth Climate Summit

    Once every two years, in cooperation with the city authorities and utility companies, the Heidelberg Chapter of Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) hosts a multi-day event at which young people can get to grips with both the theory and practical implementation of climate action. Those events have focused on the goals contained in the master plan ever since the plan was launched.

    Climate action conference

    The climate action conference held in autumn 2015 was one of the bigger events in a series of focus gatherings. At the conference, local citizens and experts were able to provide input in the form of new ideas and proposals for use in implementing various parts of the master plan.

    Project group on climate action best practice in the city administration

    In addition to including external participants in the master plan process, Heidelberg city administration also has an inhouse project group which focuses on reducing the climate impact of city operations. The group comprises representatives from 20 city departments who meet regularly to discuss climate action options in the workplace. Recent activities have focused on more energy-efficient mobility for journeys to and from work, and for official journeys and business trips. Apart from travel to and from the workplace, these also include use of official bicycles and of vehicles from the city’s official fleet.

  • Project timeline and milestones

    July 2012

    Launch of the master plan process


    Project kick-off, hiring of two climate managers and initial environmental impact assessment


    Study on Climate Action in Heidelberg


    Stakeholder participation in the Heidelberg Forum on Climate Action and Energy (Heidelberg-Kreis Klimaschutz & Energie)


    Three-phase citizens' involvement in designing the master plan


    Youth participation to enhance the master plan concept


    Establishment of a project group on climate action best practice in the city administration (Stadtverwaltung als Vorbild im Klimaschutz)


    Catalogue of measures presented to Heidelberg's Lord Mayor


    Adoption of the master plan strategies by the city council


    Participation in the Klima-Citoyen citizens' activation project


    Initial planning of the Energiewendepark  (a renewable energy showcase project) based on entries in the RegionWin competition


    Restructuring and refurbishment campaign


    Implementation of PR plan on citizens’ activation for climate action (Bürgeraktivierung zum Klimaschutz)


    Climate action conference


    Conclusion of Master Plan Phase 1, with new environmental impact assessment

  • Climate action in Heidelberg to date

    When the City of Heidelberg adopted its climate action plan and energy strategy back in 1992, a dedicated departmental unit was added to the city administration structure and climate action was introduced as a cross-sectoral responsibility. Since then, the measures contained in the climate action plan have been put into action and enhanced, networks have been established, many innovative projects have been implemented in municipal buildings in partnership with universities, industry and society, and regular impact assessments have been conducted. While emissions in municipal buildings were cut by 50 percent, far exceeding the targets set, the target of reducing total carbon emissions for the city overall by 20 percent by 2015 was not met.

    It was thus necessary for the City of Heidelberg to critically analyse and enhance its climate action plan. By adopting the Master Plan for 100% Climate Action, the city’s various climate action measures were consolidated into strategic areas, in some cases with clearly defined 2050 targets. The master plan was seen as an opportunity to assess the measures implemented so far and to realign them to the new targets contained in the plan.

    The most recent environmental impact assessment for Heidelberg analysed the city’s emissions from stationary energy use for electricity and heat (excluding transport/mobility) by sector – households, industry, trade/other, public institutions and the city administration. It showed a six percent increase in energy consumption between 1987 and 2015. Consumption peaked in 2004, with a rise of over 18 percent compared with 1987, but has since dropped by 12 percent.

    This is an extremely pleasing trend as it shows that since 2004, the impact of the significant rise in housing space, available equipment and devices, population, jobs and economic output has been more than compensated for by improved energy efficiency. While per capita carbon emissions amounted to 7.1 tonnes in 1987, they had dropped to 5.8 tonnes in 2015 – a reduction of 18 percent.

    The carbon emission reductions achieved testify to the success of Heidelberg’s previous and current climate action programmes. In addition to high-quality refurbishment of existing buildings and good standards applied in the construction of new buildings, improved energy efficiency in respect of buildings, technical systems and equipment, a fuel switch in heat supply and lower emission factors all play an important role. One particularly effective measure involved the green district heating model developed by the city’s local utilities and environment agency which sees renewable energy being fed into the district heating grid. The first big steps in implementing the new model came in the form of the wood-fired combined heat and power plant in Pfaffengrund and four biogas-fuelled cogeneration plants. Others are to follow.

  • Climate action expertise

    Heidelberg has developed expertise in the following climate action sectors:

    • Passive house standards in building construction
    • Climate action in urban development
    • Green district heating
    • Energy efficiency
    • Citizen involvement

    We seek dialogue and exchange on:

    • Restructuring and refurbishment campaigns
    • Citizen motivation

Municipality City of Heidelberg

Federal State



150,000 (as of 2015)


109 km²



Project management

Ralf Bermich
06221 5818-000

Climate action management


Christine Fiedler and Dr. Sabine Neuer
06221 5845-603

Kornmarkt 1, 69117 Heidelberg

Website (German)

Source: Content based on information provided by the City of Heidelberg.

Kornmarkt 1
Additional information