Time for actions!

How to select actions for your SECAP

The commitment of the Covenant of Mayors is transformed into practical actions by establishing a Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (SECAP)*. In the action plan, you state your choice of measures that will help you reach the 40% reduction of greenhouse gases by 2030.

But how should you select the actions? Which aspects are important to consider? As a first guide, take a few minutes to look through this education.

This education was developed within the EU project EMPOWERING,

The lesson takes 10-15 minutes.

*which before the 2015 revised Covenant of Mayors, was named Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP)

What activities are we talking about?

– Scope and focus of actions

The Covenant of Mayors is about acting at the local and regional level and covers the entire geographical area of the local authority (city, province or region). The SECAP concerns activities both in the public and the private sectors.

The actions are focused on mitigation of GHG emissions from the final energy use as well as on adaptation to climate change.
The mitigation actions encompass the sectors of municipal buildings, tertiary buildings, residential buildings and transports, but can also include actions related to the local energy generation.

The adaptation actions target the sectors and areas that have been identified as the most vulnerable to climate changes in the city.

Many possibilities for the local authority!

– The implementer, enabler, provider, policymaker and planner

The local authority have the greatest influence on the assets that are owned or managed by themselves, such as public buildings. By being an implementer of energy efficient measures as well as locally produced energy based on renewable energy sources, the local authority can take the lead and inspire other stakeholders within the city.

But the role of the local authority is greater than that! For example, the authority facilitates and enables cooperation between community stakeholders, as well as, arranges and promotes knowledge-enhancing activities. The local authority is also a provider of services in the city, such as public transportations, and usually has a certain influence on the local energy system. Additionally, the authority is a policymaker who establishes regulations and develops principles for urban planning. In every role there is a possibility for local authorities to take action to promote a reduction of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Source: Guidebook on developing a SECAP

To consider before choosing actions

The following aspects are important to consider before starting the process of choosing actions:

Policies and regulations – Which local, regional, national and EU policies and regulations exist that need to be taken into account?

Local plans – Are there already developed plans in the city that can serve as a good starting point?

Stakeholders – The engagement and cooperation of local stakeholders is crucial. What actors in the city are responsible for large emissions and need to be involved? Have any stakeholders already taken actions? Where is the expertise, support functions and useful networks within the city?

Co-benefits – Are there any co-benefits of the actions? E.g. better outdoor air quality, improved health conditions, better indoor environments, new job opportunities, better flows in urban transportations, greater energy security. Co-benefits can serve as selling points towards politicians, decision makers etc.

Capability – What resources are available to implement the action plan? This can regard competence, personnel and economic resources. Several departments and services most probably need to be involved.

Taking actions to mitigate GHG emissions

As part of the SECAP, you carry out a Baseline Emission Inventory (BEI) in order to document the status of the local emissions of greenhouse gases during a reference year. The BEI serves as the point of departure for recognising emission sources to focus on.

For each area in focus, feasible and “effective” actions are identified. Effectiveness is often assessed in money, resources or impact. For example, different actions’ ratios of estimated cost to CO2 emission reduction could be compared.

However, in order to reach the CO2 targets, it may be necessary to realise both profitable and less profitable measures. Carrying out multiple measures when, for example, the “renovation window” is open anyway, can then be the most effective way.

Mitigation actions sector by sector

– The building sector

CO2 emissions related to the building sector can be cut through energy efficient technology in new buildings, refurbishment of existing buildings to improve energy efficiency and substitution of fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. Operation and usage of the buildings are also important aspects for the final energy use.

Different aspects of the building, where energy savings can be considered:

  • Design of building in relation to the local environment
  • Usage of buildings and indoor comfort
  • Building envelope and solar protection
  • Building services, equipment and lighting
  • Building automation and control systems

The local authority can promote the implementation of energy efficient measures in buildings through regulation and supporting activities, such as introducing energy requirements in (local) building codes, establishing financial instruments for energy efficiency actions, providing guidance in retrofitting existing buildings.

Mitigation actions sector by sector

– The transport sector

Activities to mitigate CO2 emissions from cities’ transport systems address the vehicle fleet (municipal, private and commercial) and public transports and other mobility solutions, as well as actions related to urban planning.

Strategies can include limiting or avoiding the need for transportation, for example by urban planning prioritising shorter travel distances for inhabitants. Strategies can also aim at facilitating a shift in people’s travel modes, where public transport with lower emissions than private vehicles is promoted and made more accessible, together with other mobility solutions like walking and cycling. In addition, local authorities can strive to influence the improvement of the vehicle fleet regarding reduced fuel consumption (efficiency) and the change of fuels and energy carriers.

Mitigation actions sector by sector

– Local energy generation and renewable energy sources

The local authority usually has a certain influence on the local energy system, as the owner, or partner, of the local energy utilities. Activities promoting local energy generation ranges from decentralised renewable energy in buildings to the city’s centralised energy systems.

Actions related to renewable energy in buildings are focused on PV panels, solar thermal systems, biomass systems and geothermal heat pumps. Sustainable local electricity production includes technologies such as photovoltaic electricity generation, wind power, hydroelectric plants (incl. small hydropower applications), as well as the power output of cogeneration (e.g. from bioenergy). For the local production of heat or cold, large solar thermal systems, thermal energy storage, and district heating and cooling are important solutions. Actions that promote high-efficiency cogeneration power plants can also be beneficial in a sustainable energy system.

Mitigation actions sector by sector

– Local energy generation and renewable energy sources (continued)

Waste and water management is part of the local energy system, by for example the production of biogas (e.g. from waste landfills) or the utilisation of residual heat from wastewater.

Actions should also promote the minimisation of waste generation and water usage, as it will decrease the demand for energy in these systems. The integration of renewable energy sources should be supported as well.

Source: Guidebook on developing a SECAP

Mitigation actions sector by sector

– Other areas

Saving energy for outdoor lighting purposes is another area that local authorities can target measures towards. Most savings are gained by changing to energy-efficient and durable lamps for public and infrastructure lighting, but measures can also include installing lighting control techniques. Lamps with long life spans mean reduced maintenance as well.

Urban and land use planning has a role in addressing climate change as it can take a holistic approach towards a common goal, integrating several areas, such as transport, energy, buildings, planning. The layout of neighbourhoods affects the urban density and mobility, which impacts the level of CO2 emissions. Hence, the development of energy-efficient districts require that land use and transport planning are integrated.

Source: Guidebook on developing a SECAP

Taking actions to adapt to climate change

As part of the SECAP, a Risk and Vulnerability Assessment is carried in order to gain deeper understanding of potential climate hazards of cities and regions, e.g. heat waves, storms, fires. Vulnerable areas and sectors are identified, which lead to a number of focus areas, where there are higher climate risk, and to which adaptation actions should be directed.

Adaptation actions are focused on improving the resilience of the targeted sector or system and covers a range of measures. For example, actions can include infrastructure measures such as strengthen and renovating buildings or constructing flood defences. Further examples are focused on implementing and expanding green areas, green building facades and roofs, in order to improve water retention and to lower urban air temperatures. Considering how to avoid or reduce exposure to climate risk in the planning of land use is also important. Other measures address adaptive capacity building, which means developing the ability of people, authorities and sectors to effectively manage climate change.

Source: Urban adaptation support tool

Further actions by the local authority

Additional actions that can be carried out by the local authority include the following areas.

Information and education
The local authority shall educate stakeholders and citizens about the risks of climate change and what they can do to reduce their impact through behavioural changes. Increasing people’s knowledge and awareness can be carried out through information campaigns in combination with other activities such as participatory workshops, customised advice and support, training sessions, demonstration of technologies, etc.

Factors that are important to consider in order to gain people’s attention and engagement include the framing of the information as well as the choice of communication channel. Considering the specifics of the target group in question is also important, whether the information is aimed for the general public, residents of a specific housing area, school children, or the staff at the local authority, or other professionals.


Further actions by the local authority


Cooperation and networking
The local authority shall facilitate cooperation among local stakeholders representing public and private sectors as well as citizen groups. Arranging networking activities for experience and knowledge-sharing can be a valuable activity.

Promotion of energy efficient products
The local authority can encourage the markets for energy efficient technologies, products and services by including energy efficiency as a criterion in their public procurements.

There is support!

To support the signatories in selecting actions for their SECAPs, the following information will be helpful.

Guidebook on developing a SECAP
In the online library of the Covenant of Mayors Office a guidebook describing policies and actions that local authorities can implement in their action plan can be found: Guidebook ‘How to develop a Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (SECAP)’. PART 3 – Policies, key actions, good practices for mitigation and adaptation to climate change and Financing SECAP(s).

Board game on developing a SECAP
This board game supports cities in making their local action plans. 

Urban adaptation support tool
This tool describes the different steps in developing a plan for cities’ adaptation to climate change.

Good practices databases
In this database Covenant Signatories are sharing their key actions as a source of inspiration for others, which includes achievements, case studies, city profiles, videos, etc. 

Several best practices are compiled on the Empowering learning platform.  

Tools and Methodologies for energy savings
A list of tools and methodologies for implementation of sustainable energy actions and measures are compiled by Mayors in Action. 


SECAP Walktrough part 3

CoM Webinar series on adaptation #1 – Assessing risks and vulnerabilities

Test of own knowledge

Test your knowledge!

Test your knowledge on how to develop a SECAP and update a SEAP.


Climate change adaptation

Climate change adaptation and mitigation, presentation 5 September 2018.

Board game

Master of Covenant board game, presentation by Francisco N. Leal.

SECAP Walkthrough part 3

Going from data to actions, Welcome presentation.

Good practices

Good Practices database

Link: Covenant Signatories are sharing their key actions as a source of inspiration for others. In our Good Practices database you will find achievements, case studies, city profiles, videos and more!

Sinfonia smart cities

Link:  Sinfona smart cities knowledge center.


Link:  Learn how to plan sustainable energy and mobility together.

Material and links

Adaption support tool

Link: The main adaptation resource for the Covenant community is the Urban Adaptation support tool.

News article on board game

Link:  New board game supports municipalities in making their local action plans, writes Covenant of Mayors.

Training tools

Link:  Mayors in Action Tools and Methodologies for Implementation of Sustainable Energy Actions and Measures.

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