Sustaining and Strengthening City Climate Action in the COVID-19 crisis for a green and climate-resilient recovery (ClimateCitiesRecovery)

Recent years have seen a growing number of city-led climate actions worldwide. The COVID-19 crisis, however, could become a crucial juncture for cities’ climate ambition. Using a combination of large-N analysis, and in-depth case study research, this project aims to deepen theoretical understandings of city climate action during crises, and of the conditions that sustain and strengthen them. Findings can shed light on how cities might best contribute to a recovery that is consistent with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement.

Project Lead:

Sander Chan, Global Center on Adaptation (GCA)

Tanya O’Garra, Middlesex University London (MDX)

Christopher Orr

Thomas Hale, Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford (BSG)

Volkswagen Foundation

Time frame:
2021 - 2022 / completed

Co-operation Partner:

Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford (UK), Global Center on Adaptation (the Netherlands), Middlesex University London (UK), African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS, Kenya), TERI School of Advanced Studies (India)

Project description

Cities in developed and developing countries have emerged as critical actors in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to climate change impacts. Although the COVID-19 crisis has caused disruptions in habits and short-term economic development and carbon emissions, it is less clear whether it represents a critical juncture beyond which cities will shift towards enduring low-carbon and climate-resilient pathways. This study investigates cities as potential drivers of green and climate-resilient recovery, seeking to identify factors that influence whether cities embark on low-carbon and resilient pathways; return to prior unsustainable pathways, or backtrack on climate commitments and head to unsustainable pathways. By comparing climate commitments of cities in developed and developing countries, we aim to challenge conventional paradigms about development and recovery from crises which often entail investments that lock-in high-carbon and unsustainable development. Our aim is to shed light on those factors that can be harnessed - and actions that can be taken - by individual cities and networks of cities, to support a green and climate-resilient recovery.


In Work Package I (Identifying Determinants of Renewal of City Climate Commitments and Actions) we will compile secondary data to characterise cities around the world in terms of factors hypothesised to influence whether they adopt or renew their climate commitments and actions during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. These influences include ‘internal’ factors collected at the city level (e.g. climate risks, demographics, main economic sectors, governance indicators, local government political affiliation, and air pollution) and at the national level (e.g. climate risk and vulnerability profile, fossil fuel dependence, state fragility, political profile of governing parties/coalitions, regime type, national-level Covid-19 policies), as well as ‘external’ factors (e.g. international network affiliation, national or international funding for climate projects). The dataset will be analysed using panel logistic regressions and/or Generalized Linear Mixed Models to identify factors that influence the uptake or renewal of climate commitments and actions.


In Work Package II (Low-carbon and climate-resilient city pathways) we will conduct a comparative case analysis to identify causal mechanisms by which the economic impact of COVID-19 interacts with contextual factors and drivers to influence whether cities pursue high- or low-carbon/resilience pathways in response to COVID-19.


In Work Package III (Fostering mutual learning and dialogue among cities), we aim to co-develop knowledge with city stakeholders, and disseminate policy-relevant findings, for instance through recommendations to scale and replicate low-carbon and climate-resilient development pathways.