Climate change adaptation in European cities need of the hour: Studies

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European cities are struggling to handle impacts of heatwaves, destructive floods and severe droughts despite increasing awareness of climate change impacts and the need to adapt, according to two reports on Climate change and Europe.

One of the studies by the European Economic Area said that addressing climate change adaptation in cities was urgent as nearly 75 per cent of Europeans live in urban areas. With the number expected to grow in the coming years, the report ‘Urban adaptation in Europe: how cities and towns respond to climate change’ said that the planning and construction of the cities remained unsustainable. The study noted that continued construction on floodplains, increased covering of soil surfaces by asphalt or concrete, small amount of green spaces, urban sprawl encroaching on wildfire and landslide prone areas are making cities and towns more vulnerable.

The EEA report points out that the measures put in place now mostly focus on developing knowledge, creating awareness and policy developments. However, the report said that physical adaptation solutions like developing more green spaces for reducing impacts of heatwaves or adjusting sewerage systems to cope with flash flooding are yet to be implemented across the continent.

Another EEA report ‘Monitoring and evaluation of national adaptation policies throughout the policy cycle,’ stressed the importance of reporting, monitoring and evaluation and brings together the lessons learned on how to improve national adaptation strategies and plans in the future.

The reports point out that cities and towns play a crucial role in responding to climate change in a highly urbanised continent such as Europe. “This is not only because of the concentration of population and economic assets in urban areas, but also because local authorities perform key functions that are central to climate adaptation, such as land use regulation or emergency planning,” the report said.

The reports mentioned that though many local authorities have realised the importance of adaptation and have started acting, progress in adaptation planning was still slow. Even the implementation and monitoring of actions was slower. The reasons cited for this are insufficient human and financial resources available for local-level adaptation.

The report maintains that engagement of the citizens, private sector and civil society can help local authorities in adaptation planning and implementation in a greater way. The EU reports said that there was an urgent need for developing and putting in place tangible adaptation measures.

The reports pointed out that climate adapted land use planning and urban design could substantially reduce the scale of future damage under the changing climate.

FINDINGS

• Climate change in European cities is likely to be caused by extreme weather such as heatwaves, precipitation, flooding and droughts. Other risks like wildfires and vector borne diseases are also on the rise.
• The number of cities/towns committed to adapt to climate change has grown substantially.
• Early warnings, awareness raising and nature based solutions emerge as effective and cost efficient adaptation actions. But the success of these measures is highly context dependent. The limited knowledge on the success of various adaptation measures has called for improving monitoring and evaluation of the solutions implemented.
• Financial support is much needed.

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