Project Description

Urban Footprints - Towards Greater Accountability in the Governance of Cities' Carbon and Material Flows

Global warming and the depletion of resources are enormous environmental and societal challenges of our time. Globally, scientists and politicians agree that meeting these challenges requires major transformation processes compared to business as usual.

The Footprints project focuses on the current as well as the potential future role of cities in combating climate change and resource depletion. Cities are crucial actors when it comes to these global problems; they consume about 75 % of world energy and material flows.

The research builds on the hypothesis that the design of local urban systems is crucial for global sustainability. It explores accountable modes of governance of cities' carbon and material footprints in order to activate the transformative forces within cities.

Bridging the disciplines of legal sciences and urban studies, the project will develop a knowledge base, an analysis of opportunities and challenges, as well as recommendations for enhanced accountable governance of urban carbon and material footprints for eight international cities and their respective national jurisdictions, including China, India and the United States.

With its innovative approach to urban governance, the Footprints project aims to function as a catalyst for overcoming national boundaries, established disciplines, and institutions.

The project runs from 2018-2022 and is funded by a Freigeist-Fellowship of the Volkswagen Foundation.

Kick-Off Workshop

Paving the way for Research on Global Cities

Kickoff event has been organised to connect with a growing community of professionals and researchers working towards enabling our cities to be even more responsible actors!

Starting the exploration into the design of local systems, we use the two days to envision and plan systemic change in urban metabolisms. With a mix of international scientific experts, local stakeholders and young professionals we will work within the context of Delhi, São Paulo, Lagos, Cairo, and Hamburg.

The first day will focus on envisioning systemic change in areas as diverse as mobility, food flows, heating & cooling and service supply in the six cities. The second day focuses on pathways for transition, where we will learn about the status quo of climate and resource action planning in selected global cities. We will also discuss challenges and opportunities against the backdrop of the need for systemic changes in urban infrastructures, lifestyles and governance carved out in the preceding sessions.

Kick-Off Workshop

The Light "Foodprint"

Running a low footprint workshop: The Urban Footprints Project (UFP) aims to combine its theoretical research outcomes with practiced reality. Therefore, it is important to keep the footprint of the Kick-Off Workshop itself low.

By working actively with the caterers, we make sure that food and drinks are vegetarian or vegan with seasonal, regional and organic ingredients. We calculated the CO2e and water footprints of the meals based on classification of ingredients derived from the tool of the IFEU Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and research of the BCFN Foundation, respectively.

The comparison of the "foodprints" of a conventionally supplied, two-day workshop of the same size and the UFP Kick-Off shows the impact of the preset criteria for the menue selection: An optimized, yet enjoyable, menu can reduce the footprint for CO2e and water by more than half.

Kick-off Workshop


The workshop report is a concise compilation covering details of the presentations, groupwork, panel discussion and conveying the key takeaways. As a team, we have had the chance to reflect on the kickoff workshop and are very grateful to everyone who made this event so successful.

You can view and download PDF here.

Other Platforms

Social Media

Find the UFP on:

ResearchGate where we will be sharing our project progress & Twitter for other updates.