According to a recent European Environment Agency (EEA) report entitled ‘Urban adaptation to climate change in Europe 2016 – transforming cities in a changing climate’, climate change is a challenge that involves a range of social, economic and environmental factors. These include geopolitics, economic growth/decline, demographic changes, ageing populations, social segregation/migration, and a transition to low carbon energy systems. In acknowledging these factors, the report makes it clear that collaboration and knowledge sharing are critical to climate change adaptation for European cities.
Climate change can trigger wide ranging direct and indirect impacts. Global and regional trends in social, economic and environmental factors add layers of complexity. The EEA report outlines action that can be taken in European cities in order to adapt to the challenges of climate change. It provides food for thought, assessing whether current action is making these urban centres more attractive, liveable and climate resilient – and if not, what needs to change. The ‘Urban adaptation to climate change in Europe 2016 – transforming cities in a changing climate’ report targets European Governments at local, regional and national levels, as well as non- Government organisations and urban climate change adaptation experts and researchers.
The EEA report is structured around 5 themes as follows:
1. Cities matter to people living within and beyond their borders. Urban adaptation is one element that can prepare cities and Europe as a whole for the climate of the future
2. Coping with extreme environmental events and incrementally improving existing climate change adaptation measures can offer effective short and medium term solutions. These approaches aim to maintain each city’s current service capabilities
3. Climate change adaptation for cities combines action from different stakeholders and comes in different forms – including planning, implementing and supporting adaptation actions at local, regional or national levels and across different sectors.Successful adaptation requires collaboration between local, regional and national Governments across a range of sectors
4. Getting climate change adaptation right in target areas is key to effectively mastering the different steps of planning and implementing urban adaptation. A systematic approach to adaptation can boost both innovation and quality of life – attracting people, businesses and improving economic performance
5. Tackling urban adaptation and transformation in Europe requires complementary action from stakeholders at different levels. Adaptation is a learning experience, and therefore exchanging knowledge and experience is vital for cities and Europe as a whole.
Cities around the world, not just in Europe, need to make a connection between global long term climate change and the need for action now. To capitalise on the opportunities that transformative adaptation can offer (which include being more liveable and resilient) urban planners need to expand their horizons and identify opportunities to collaborate across sectors and levels of Government as well as with business, communities and citizens. Compiling a sound economic case as early as possible enables decision makers to scope and select the most appropriate adaptation measures while keeping costs as low as possible.
The transformation of its cities in regards to climate change adaptation will facilitate Europe becoming a more attractive place to live.
The transformation of its cities in regards to climate change adaptation will facilitate Europe becoming a more attractive place to live. Regional, national and international Governments can provide legal and institutional frameworks that facilitate this transformation. Governments can also facilitate more efficient networking across Europe which will in turn transfer knowledge regarding the most appropriate adaptation measures. In this way, cities can learn from each other and follow the examples of the early adopters.
Researchers also play an important role in climate change adaptation. The knowledge base on climate adaptation for cities is still developing and researchers can fill in the gaps to further develop that knowledge base. In particular, researchers need to investigate more systematic approaches and integrate socio-economic and demographic aspects of urban developments into their knowledge base for transformative adaptation.
It is clear from this report that European cities are going to play increasingly important roles in climate change adaptation. Through collaboration and knowledge sharing, the most efficient climate change adaptation measures can be developed and implemented across Europe. In reality, the impacts of climate change are not restricted to one particular geographic region and may vary widely between regions. Therefore every city worldwide has a part to play in adapting to climate change and in turn making their city more liveable and affording economic opportunities for its people.
Climate change is one of the most significant global challenges we face at this point of time. If cities in Europe and around the world are going to remain viable, sustainable and enjoyable places where people can live, work and pursue recreational activities, they will need to adapt to the changing environment. While the exact nature and scale of challenges that each city will face may differ, collaboration and knowledge sharing are critical tools every city around the world can implement in order to ensure they are prepared and remain able to prosper in the face of the adaptation requirements that climate change presents.