Due to the impact of industry on the environment it’s clear that both humidity and temperatures are rising. In line with the EU 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, the Pact of Amsterdam* defines Climate Adaptation as one of the 12 Priority themes to be addressed by the Urban Agenda for the EU.
This is an inclusive, new participatory instrument to reach a better Europe working from the ground. The Urban Agenda for the EU has given voice to cities/urban areas that can directly and freely dialogue with Member States and EU Commission as part of a new experimental process.
“due to the impact of industry on the environment it’s clear that both humidity and temperatures are rising”
The Climate Adaptation Partnership acts as a cross-sectoral cooperation instrument among the different governance levels. It started working in July 2017 to deliver in June this year the Draft Action Plan to facilitate the cities’ adaptation to climate change. The objectives of the Climate Adaptation Partnership are: “to anticipate the adverse effects of climate change and take appropriate actions to prevent or minimise the damage it can cause to Urban Areas”. The focus is on: vulnerability assessments, climate resilience and risk management, including the social dimensions of climate adaptation strategies”.
The members of the Partnership are:
- Member States: France, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria
- Local and Regional authorities: Genova – Coordinator (IT), Barcelona Diput. (ES), Glasgow (UK), Loulè (PT), Potenza (IT), Sfantu Gheorghe (RO),Trondheim (NO)
- Important European Commission Departments: Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO), Directorate-General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA), Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENV), Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD), Joint Research Centre (JRC)
- Relevant EU Organizations / Observers / Stakeholders: EUROCITIES, Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), European Investment Bank (EIB), URBACT, European Environment Agency (EEA), Covenant of Majors
It is widely recognised that vulnerability and the potential scale of damage due to climate change is especially high in urban areas, which host high density of populations (including highly vulnerable population groups), high concentration of valuable assets and economic investments as well as essential infrastructure networks and nodes (IPCC 2014, EEA 2013, COM 2013b, EEA 2017a). Europe’s high rate of urbanisation – 75% of all citizens living in urban areas (WorldBank 2018) and cities accounting for more than 50% of Europe’s GDP (MGI 2011) – calls for special attention to climate change impacts in cities and towns.
“the key climate change impacts European urban areas are facing are rising temperatures, growing precipitation and extreme precipitation events leading to pluvial and fluvial flooding, water scarcity”
The key climate change impacts European urban areas are facing are rising temperatures (leading to Urban Heat Island Effect), growing precipitation and extreme precipitation events leading to pluvial and fluvial flooding, water scarcity, as well as increased storm damage and threat of nearby forest fires (EEA 2016). These direct impacts cascade through the urban systems leading to a wide range of other impacts on the human health, social wellbeing, economy and overall quality of life of a city (EEA 2016).
The aforementioned impacts are strictly related and conditioned by the percentage of relative humidity. In general two main aspect related to humidity are challenging for global and local scale: first one is the distribution – raising on the ocean decreasing on land; the second is its circulation and the transport in atmosphere. It is recognised that moisture content into atmosphere could impact on the ground with related specific effects. In case of heat and humid wave effects in urban areas it could directly affect the perception on people, for instance of temperatures trend with consequent effects on quality of life. In order to preserve European cities as safe, attractive, liveable and inclusive spaces, innovation centres and economic powerhouses, action to address climate change consequences needs to be taken.
The recognition of the importance of taking action on adaptation to climate change in urban areas is explicitly embedded in the EU climate change policies. The EU strategy on adaptation to climate change from COM 2013 to COM 2018 pledges that the European Union ‘will support adaptation in cities, notably by launching a voluntary commitment to adopt local adaptation strategies and awarenessraising activities.’ To this date almost 1,100 urban municipalities from 25 Member States have signed up to COM 2018, thus covering around 60 million inhabitants. These municipalities have committed to conduct vulnerability and risk assessments, and to develop, implement and report on adaptation plans.
In addition, many other cities who have not joined the Covenant of Mayors (COM) have developed adaptation strategies or plans independently or are due to national legal commitments. Altogether this has led to 25.5% of EU Urban Audit cities having a climate adaptation strategy or plan by January 2017 (Reckien et al. 2018). Analysis looked at 885 European cities in the EU, covering 190,684,004 inhabitants and thereby 37.3% of the EU population. At least 48,624,481 people or about 9.5% of the EU population are currently being protected by an urban adaptation plan.
Cities in Denmark, France, Slovakia and the UK, where local climate plans are compulsory, are about five times more likely to have an adaptation plan than cities in other countries, reaching 56% of cities. This shows that binding measures at the national level significantly increase the percentage of local authorities in the EU with a local adaptation strategy, potentially because such regulation also comes with guidelines, and methodological and institutional support. There is further scope to encourage other EU Member States to adopt national regulation for local areas at the national level and combine these with methodological guidance and binding measures. However almost 75% of EU cities are without an adaptation plan; and the analysis omits smaller urban municipalities, which are likely to have even fewer approved adaptation strategies or plans due to their limited resources and know-how.
Identifying and classifying bottlenecks
Grounded in this information and in order to define the focus of the Urban Agenda Adaptation activities, the Climate Adaptation Partnership carried out an exercise of identifying and classifying the urban adaptation bottlenecks in Europe. Altogether 39 bottlenecks were identified, and two thirds of them (26 bottlenecks in total) are addressed by the proposed Actions in the Plan.
To generally cluster them we can consider the following:
- Lack of financial resources for planning and implementation of actions in medium long term strategies
- Lack of supportive national frameworks and policies
- General lack of skilled human resources
- Lack of experience in creating long-term administrative set-ups for adaptation
- Gaps in understanding climate impacts and costs in specific urban sectors
- Limited capacity to collect, access and interpret climate data – Gaps in know-how on developing urban monitoring systems
- Limited awareness of the available information, also due to language barriers
The Partnership’s main goal is to enable European local governments to assess climate change risks and the vulnerability of their urban system, both at social to infrastructural level, to “strategically” plan adaptation policies based on solid evidence and to fund and implement measures on the ground leading to increases urban resilience in Europe.
The wider argument
But how does the Partnership’s Draft Action Plan deal with a wider argument such as Climate Adaptation? Starting from the knowledge of the Global change on Climate System, downscaling progressively the analysis to the Biosphere and Environmental System until to focus on impacts on society at Local scale. Actions proposed in the Plan envisage then a progressive enabler path to increase cities and people capacities on adaptation to climate change, with more commitment and support from the national/regional government level in concerted way, considering also the successful achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, to which the Urban agenda for the EU is linked.
The Actions constituting the proposed Draft Action Plan address a significant number of the issues the Partnership focused on, trying to overcome identified key bottlenecks to successful urban climate change adaptation in Europe regarding:
- Provision, access and usability of key data, methodologies, tools and information essential for urban adaptation planning and implementation
- Accessibility, suitability and promotion of EU and other funding sources for urban adaptation, including for the development of local adaptation strategies/plans and the implementation of adaptation measures
- Awareness raising, capacity building and stakeholder engagement in support of good adaptation governance locally
The summary of the actions proposed (actually under evaluation) in the Action Plan comes under the three headings of the Pact of Amsterdam to foster better regulation, funding and knowledge in the field of adaptation to climate change in urban areas.
Under the Better Regulation the Urban Agenda for the EU focuses on a more effective and coherent implementation of existing EU policies, legislation and instruments. The main intent is to gather urban needs for better climate adaptation actions, recommendations and policies improvements. The Action Plan will not initiate new regulation but will contribute to the design of future and revision of existing EU regulation pertinent to topic of urban adaptation. The baseline for the Better Regulation is that Climate Adaptation requires long-term strategies and this cover a different timeframe respect to political will and decisionmaking at different governance level. Two action have been proposed:
Action number one
(Revision of urban development and planning regulation tools, focusing on national, regional and local climate adaptation actions) aim to improve existing multilevel strategic spatial planning and urban development planning that are important tools, but not detailed enough, or do not contain tailored information, or regulations are not efficient especially for the Municipalities. The existing national, regional and local case studies and good practice examples on regulation are too few and not accessible to their respective target groups.
Action number two
(Further involvement of national municipality associations and Covenant of Mayors as key facilitators and supporters of local authorities) would help local authorities in the process of the application in the Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy. Additionally, smalland medium-size cities are often still struggling to actually translate their commitment into concrete adaptation actions and need further support in the process, reaching out additional associations/networks and looking for new partnerships.
The Pact of Amsterdam states that the Urban Agenda for the EU will contribute to identifying, supporting, integrating and improving traditional, innovative and user-friendly sources of funding for Urban Areas at the relevant institutional level, to suggest how Urban Areas could benefit of funding policies consistent with their real needs on climate adaptation. The overarching aim of this Action Plan pillar is to improve funding opportunities for urban adaptation based on lessons learned. Four actions have been proposed.
Action number one
(Guidelines and toolkits for adaptation economic analysis) proposes to analyse existing methodologies and good practices regarding the Cost Benefit analysis of climate change adaptation, and adapt and develop these to infrastructure investments in the urban context, to help decision makers to take informed and robust resolutions between options. The tools are aimed for in-house use by cities and financial institutions and will permit, promote and enhance investments and operational changes in cites, enabling people, assets and ecosystems to cope with impacts and seize the opportunities that climate change presents.
Action number two
(Recommendations for the Operational Programs of the ERDF in order to improve access for municipalities) aims to establish recommendations addressed to the Member States and National Authorities for the Operational Programs in order to improve OP accessibility for Local Authorities and to increase adaptation actions’ implementation. Accessibility of the ERDF especially small and medium cities is still challenging, due to the degree of complexity to fulfil all requirements. Allocating part of the funds to climate adaptation projects of Local Authorities and considering to co-finance at least part of them, allowing supra-municipal entities (such as provinces, councils, etc…), to act on behalf of the municipalities helping them also with technical assistance, establishing more flexible indicators also focusing on ecosystem services and lowering co-financing rate for adaptation projects considering the size of the Local Authority could be useful improvements of cities success in application process.
Action number three
(A new LIFE for urban adaptation projects) aims to identify good practices of Member States or regions working effectively with cities on urban adaptation using LIFE funding, disseminate and making them available to cities, regions and Member States, through city networks and initiatives such as the Covenant of Mayors, in national languages when possible. Other activities foresee to gather and convey cities’ feedback on the LIFE programme to the European Commission to make concrete suggestions to improve access of cities to the programme, still challenging, feeding in the final evaluation of the LIFE regulation 2014-2020, expected in 2020 (the mid-term evaluation was released in November 2017).
Action number four
(Further support for the drafting of local adaptation plans) even though various EU (and national) financing instruments already support local and regional climate adaptation action cities, especially smaller ones, still struggle in accessing such funds, in particular when they try to develop their climate risk and vulnerability assessments and draft relative local adaptation strategies. The revision of the pre-conditions for accessing certain funds or the adjustment of selection and award criteria for grants for adaptation planning under the different programmes by the Commission could enable and foster an easier access notably by smaller municipalities and ensure sustainability on implementation of climate adaptation plans such as SECAP, in line with EU policies and strategies.
Better Knowledge is primarily focused on improving data accessibility and exchange to suggest both traditional and not conventional communication models on climate adaptation among institutional bodies, communities and stakeholders. Reliable data are key factor for evidence-based urban adaptation planning and implementation. Knowledge of the climate change vulnerabilities of urban areas needs to be further developed and brought to users and decision-makers in local authorities. Initiatives taken in this context will be in accordance with the relevant EU legislation on data protection, as well as the reuse of public sector information and the promotion of big, linked and open data. Five actions have been proposed.
Action number one
(Improving data accessibility for EU Municipalities in the framework of COPERNICUS) would like to review COPERNICUS framework in order to identify technologies and procedures to allow Municipalities to benefit of a wider access to thematic information specifically tailored for local needs. Climate Change Copernicus Services (C3S) information contains both the baseline climate data variables as well as information on the projected climate. Municipalities need effective and available tools for territorial analysis to better plan climate adaptation strategies and inform policy-makers at a local level through specific higher resolution C3S data.
Action number two
(Enhancing the urban content of Climate-ADAPT) although tools, guidelines and resources useful to city-level adaptation are present in Climate-ADAPT they have not been sufficiently been evaluated by practitioners. Specific consideration of urban practitioners’ needs could be included in the ongoing (2018) revisions and future development of Climate-ADAPT in 2019-20. Improvement of UAST content and its promotion; provision of access to climate services and climate data; promotion of information on and examples of urban adaptation funding and financing, through collaboration between EEA, CoM, DG Clima, DG Research, EASME and other partners; at least providing a space for the case studies on use of insurance data could be some useful examples of platform improvements.
Action number three
(Political training academy on climate adaptation) offer an opportunity for local politicians (mayor or not) to benefit of a dedicated target training to enhance knowledge of what adaptation means to the city and the citizens and what concrete actions can be proposed. Adaptation measures sometimes requires substantial investment that can only be secured if there is sufficient political buy-in. This political support is often missing: the Covenant of Mayors needs-assessment report indicates that “Changes in the local political priorities” is the third most important barrier faced by city officers for the implementation of their Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans.
“knowledge of the climate change vulnerabilities of urban areas needs to be further developed and brought to users and decision-makers in local authorities”
Action number four
(Enhancing citizen and stakeholder involvement at regional and local levels for climate adaptation agendas) the local players have already largely demonstrated their capacities to directly engage with civil society and sufficiently empower other relevant stakeholders (e.g. universities, research institutes, thematic agencies, SMEs). But still remain some weak points such as lack of effective tools for communication concerning connection between risk management and climate adaptation planning and lack of effective methodologies (shared by EU municipalities) for the definition of stakeholders’ role and engagement in risk and climate adaptation field. The European Commission and its initiatives for cities (e.g. the Covenant of Mayors and URBACT) shall therefore continue exploring new opportunities that encourage and facilitate a more participatory and collaborative approach where citizens and other players have their say in the decision making and planning stages at local level.
Action number five
(Promote open access on insurance data for climate risk management) is based on the consideration that risk transfer and disaster risk response are important elements of strategies on adaptation to climate change and disaster risk reduction. Climate related damages are expected to increase with climate change, due to increasing numbers of extreme-weather events that will also be increasingly powerful (storms, floods, heat waves, droughts). In terms of financial and economic costs, this will increase the burden on governments and citizens. The adaptive capacity of cities is an important factor in preventing damages. The insurance and public sector at municipal and city levels are not structurally sharing their knowledge of disaster loss data in local risk assessment and identification of adaptation options, which may lead to sub-optimal adaptation practice, leading in turn to higher damages, higher recovery costs and higher premiums for insurers. A specific rollout of action 8 of the EU Adaptation Strategy, serving the policy objectives of the Green Paper on Insurance of Man-Made and Natural Disasters, and following a number of key recommendations made in the DG CLIMA study on insurance, disaster risk and climate change would lead to insights into structural data sharing to improve adaptation action, risk prevention, risk transfer and disaster risk management, and it would provide experience and potential evidence of how integrating insurance in adaptation and disaster risk management can be improved climate resilience, reached lower climate risk and adjust the insurance business model to the consequences of climate change.