Stretching and Conforming? Financing Urban Climate Change Adaptation in Copenhagen?

Stella Whittaker*, Kristjan Jespersen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Cities worldwide are struggling to build resilience to the risks posed by climate change for their infrastructures, economies and quality of life. However, no city government has sufficient capacities to fund the adaptations required to ensure such resilience alone. Copenhagen’s efforts to secure financing for adaptation and mitigation are investigated, focusing on its innovative arrangements for funding projects to protect against extreme rainfall and flooding. A mixed-methods approach explores how municipal actors and investors accessed finance for supporting transition to a climate-adapted city. Mobilising concepts from the multilevel perspective to analyse the governance and market conditions that facilitate or impede such financing, this paper contributes to sustainable transition theory and the assessment of different funding approaches. The case study confirms the comprehensiveness and effective implementation of the city’s plans, especially its innovative financing product for adaptation to urban flooding. However, this approach has knock-on effects for tackling other climate hazards, partnerships and investment urgency. Although extreme rainfall events in 2011–13 opened a valuable ‘window of opportunity’ for change at the system landscape level, catalysing a radical shift in government policy and investment, this disruption did not elicit a commensurate response from the city’s finance sector.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBuildings and Cities
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)974-999
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Adaptation
  • Cities
  • Climate finance
  • Climate risk
  • Investors
  • Sustainable transition
  • Copenhagen

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