Countries and cities in Europe need to step up adaptation to climate change impacts

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Despite the increasing awareness of climate change impacts and the need to adapt, many of Europe’s cities and towns are struggling to handle the impacts of heatwaves, severe droughts and destructive floods. Two European Environment Agency (EEA) reports published today stress the urgent need for action to improve adaptation and resilience at local and national government levels. The CMCC Foundation contributed to the reports in the framework of the ETC/CCA activities.

Source: based on EEA press release

Two European Environment Agency (EEA) reports have just been released today: the EEA reports Urban adaptation in Europe: how cities and towns respond to climate change and “Monitoring and evaluation of national adaptation policies throughout the policy cycle. The reports are realized with the extensive contribution of the CMCC Foundation – Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change in the framework of the activities of the European Topic Centre on Climate Change impacts, vulnerability and Adaptation (ETC/CCA), an international consortium of 15 European institutions working with the European Environment Agency under a framework partnership agreement and lead by the CMCC Foundation (see below “the CMCC contribution” for further details).

Addressing climate change adaptation in cities is increasingly urgent as nearly 75% of Europeans live in urban areas. This number expected to grow in coming years. Moreover, the way we plan and construct our cities remains unsustainable, the EEA report ‘Urban adaptation in Europe: how cities and towns respond to climate change’, says. Specifically, continued construction on floodplains, the increased covering of soil surfaces by concrete or asphalt, the small amount of green spaces, and urban sprawl encroaching on wildfire and landslide prone areas are making cities and towns much more vulnerable.

The report gives the latest state of play on European climate change adaptation planning and action efforts at local level. While many local authorities have realized the importance of becoming resilient to climate change, progress in adaptation planning remains slow. Implementation of adaptation measures and the monitoring of the success of these actions are even slower. The report says that measures currently put in place mostly focus on developing knowledge, awareness raising or policy developments. Physical adaptation solutions — such as developing more green spaces to reduce the impacts of heatwaves or adjusting sewerage systems to cope with flash flooding — have not yet been implemented equally across Europe.

Adaptation of cities is also necessary from an economic perspective. Urban areas are key economic hubs home to industry and services. Concerted action at all governance levels — from EU through national to local — is needed to support urban adaptation through improved access to knowledge and funding, political commitment and community engagement, and mainstreaming adaptation into all policy areas.

The EEA report, ‘Monitoring and evaluation of national adaptation policies throughout the policy cycle,’ also published today, stresses the importance of monitoring, reporting and evaluation and brings together the lessons learned on how to improve national adaptation strategies and plans in the future. The report also presents examples how indicators can play an important role in tracking progress of implementation and helping to understand the effectiveness of different approaches and measures. In addition to local and national indicators, additional European-level indicators can improve the adaptation picture across the EU.

The CMCC contribution

As mentioned above, the CMCC Foundation contributed to the reports in the context of the European Topic Centre on Climate Change impacts, vulnerability and Adaptation (ETC/CCA), a consortium of 15 European institutions contracted by the EEA and coordinated by CMCC, the current coordinator being the researcher Silvia Medri.

CMCC scientists Margaretha Breil and Katie Johnson contributed to the EEA reportUrban adaptation in Europe: how cities and towns respond to climate changeas task manager and contributor, respectively. “The ETC experts coordinated by me and my colleague Lea Kleinenkuhnen (Climate Alliance)”, explains Margaretha Breil, senior scientist on urban sustainability and climate change adaptation at CMCC, “assessed climate change impacts in European cities and the effectiveness of adaptation options, on the basis of the scientific literature. This work was integrated by information provided by cities and their networks on the current state of their action to implement adaptation in urban areas. In this sense, the report provides a good overview of what the cities have already realized while illustrating what are the challenges they have still to face.”

Jaroslav Mysiak, CMCC Director of RAAS – Risk Assessment and Adaptation Strategies Division, and CMCC scientist Silvia Torresan (Division Deputy Director of RAAS) contributed to the EEA report “Monitoring and evaluation of national adaptation policies throughout the policy cycle”, being two out of nine lead authors of this milestone report. CMCC has contributed to the report”, explain the authors, “thorough a review of the progress on adaptation, with emphasis on climate risk assessment and climate innovation, indicator-based assessment and composite indices of progress, and peer review programs of disaster risk management capabilities and environmental performance.”

Other key findings:

  • The most pronounced impacts of climate change in European cities are likely to be caused by extreme weather, such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, flooding and droughts, but other risks — including wildfires and vector‑borne diseases — are also on the rise.
  • The number of cities and towns committed to acting on adaptation to climate change has grown substantially in Europe, supported by the emphasis on urban adaptation in national adaptation strategies, EU policy and key international frameworks.
  • Early warnings, awareness raising and nature‑based solutions emerge as effective and cost‑efficient adaptation actions. However, the success of adaptation measures is highly context‑dependent and the limited amount of knowledge on the success of various adaptation measures calls for improved monitoring and evaluation of the solutions implemented.
  • The absence of a single, comprehensive overview of adaptation planning and action at the government level in Europe precludes detailed assessment of the level of preparedness for climate change in Europe. Streamlined monitoring and reporting of local adaptation plans and actions are needed if EU and national governments are to effectively support local adaptation.
  • Financial support is key in enabling adaptation action. To measure the efficiency of the investment, necessary and planned expenditures as well as actual spending should be known. Although progress is slowly being made, much of this information is still missing today. Public finance is increasingly being directed towards climate change adaptation, but private sector finance is harder to identify. Awareness raising will be needed for this to come on stream, as private finance will be necessary to bridge the adaptation gap.

More information on related tools and databases:

Download the full report Urban adaptation in Europe: how cities and towns respond to climate change

Download the full report Monitoring and evaluation of national adaptation policies throughout the policy cycle

The ETC/CCA partners that contributed to the reports are:

  • CENIA – Czech Environmental Information Agency
  • Climate Alliance
  • DCE-AU – Danish Centre for Environment and Energy – Aarhus University
  • EAA – Environment Agency Austria
  • PBL – PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
  • SYKE – Finnish Environment Institute
  • VITO – Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologish Onderzoek
  • WENR – Stichting Wageningen Research, Wageningen Environmental Research

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