From Greece to the Netherlands: Cities learning from each other on climate adaptation

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In January 2017, the 11 European cities selected to take part in the 2016 Mayors Adapt twinning programme (now formally part of the new Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy), attended one of the four visits organised across Europe to learn about urban climate change adaptation.

The city of Bratislava hosted representatives from the cities of Arnhem and Bremen on 16-17 January for a peer-learning exchange. These cities face several common challenges in terms of climate change impacts and inter-related adaption solutions; including instances of flooding and urban heat island effects. Bratislava recently finalised the second draft of its ‘Action plan for adaptation to climate change in Bratislava 2017 – 2020’. The plan will provide a holistic framework through which the city authorities can put into action a number of climate adaptation solutions.The Slovakian capital aspires to be a climate neutral city in the coming decades and routine evaluation of the adaptation process within the city shall be undertaken.

Many of the discussions between the parties centred on common challenges such as combatting the adverse impact of urban heat islands and implemention of intelligent and cost-effective water management solutions. Further debate focused on the types of policy instruments which should be used to yield the best results. 

A representative from the city of Piraeus, Greece, visited the city of Murcia, Spain on 17-18 January. Murcia joined Mayors Adapt in 2014 and since then has been implementing a thorough methodology to assess climate impact on the city and to define a framework for the identification, planning and monitoring of adaptation actions. In order to cope with more  frequent and intense heatwaves, strong winds and intense rainfall, Murcia has already implemented a centralised control of 75% of green spaces, the introduction of native species in parks, the rehabilitation of the Murcian traditional orchard 'La Huerta', water saving measures, detection tools for floods and river contamination, awareness-raising campaigns, and numerous measures to incentivise soft mobility.

A transit city between Athens and the harbour,  Piraeus is facing similar climate hazards to Murcia; in addition to rising sea levels. Piraeus has just joined the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy and the inspiration from Murcia will help the city to draft its risks and vulnerability assessment, and adaptation strategy.

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Representatives from the cities of Thessaloniki, Greece and Braga, Portugal visited the city of Sevilla on 23-24 January. These three cities are all suffering from extreme temperatures, especially longer heatwaves with 'tropical nights', water scarcity and may also be threatened by flooding events in cases of extreme rainfall.

These hazards have been the trigger for Sevilla to implement a comprehensive portfolio of green measures covering the water, energy, transport, housing and waste sectors, which the city is now reviewing and incorporating into its adaptation plan. Most of these measures aim to improve energy efficiency (better insulation of buildings against heat), save water (consumption was brought down from 176 L/inhabitant/day in 1991 to 112 in 2015), and to transform outdoor spaces into more liveable and tolerable places during heatwaves.

Thessaloniki has already implemented some bio-climatic measures to cool down the city and will use the experience of Sevilla to work on optimising its water system. Braga has already conducted a thorough climate risks and vulnerability assessment and will now use the learnings from the twinning visit to prioritise and implement the measures contained in its adaptation plan.

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EUROCITIES staff contact

Claire Baffert