Explaining climate policy pathways of unlikely city pioneers: The case of the German city of Remscheid

Wolfgang Haupt*, Kristine Kern

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    The German mid-sized city of Remscheid, located in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, can be characterised as an unlikely climate pioneer. Remscheid is a least likely candidate for pioneering climate policies. Previous research suggests that climate pioneers are typically characterised by a growing population, favourable economic conditions, political influence of green parties, a strong civil society, and a supportive local research environment. However, none of the listed characteristics apply to Remscheid – quite to the contrary. Our paper aims at solving this research puzzle, based on an exploratory in-depth case-study of Remscheid's climate policy pathway since the early 1990s. The city performs much better than most German cities of comparable size because the lack of capacities can be compensated by strong key actors and creative policy-making. Local actors manage to attract external funding from a variety of sources and frequently participate in applied research projects on relevant topics. However, we also find that the uncertainty of planning from project to project has a negative effect on setting long-term climate goals and developing holistic visions for the future. We need more studies on rather disadvantaged cities that have nevertheless managed to become climate pioneers. Models created by unlikely pioneers such as Remscheid have to be made visible and accessible for cities that work under similar conditions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number101220
    JournalUrban Climate
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • Climate governance
    • Likely laggards
    • Local actors
    • Policy entrepreneurs
    • Remscheid
    • Unlikely pioneers


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