A new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) shows the benefits of investing in long-term preventive measures that cities should take to improve their resilience.
During the last years, urban dwellers are repeatedly and increasingly challenged with climate change impacts such as prolonged heat waves, flooding, extreme precipitation or extended drought periods. The new EEA report ‘Urban adaptation to climate change in Europe 2016 – transforming cities in a changing climate’ published earlier this month, proposes several actions that urban planners and policymakers should practice in order to minimize the impact of climate change. But the most important of all, is the long term adaptation planning (for at least the next 50-100 years) via effective synergies and appropriate governance, as it is explained that short-term coping or incremental adaptation measures alone will not be enough to mitigate the threats.
The report includes many examples from European cities vulnerable to natural disasters driven by climate change, and how they adjusted in order to survive. It also refers to a number of adaptation and mitigation measures that could be taken, underlining that sometimes there are synergies between them. For example, passive or active cooling of the indoor climate, such as building insulation, white roofs, green roofs, sunscreens or storing heat and cold prevent buildings from overheating and also save energy for cooling. Tree canopies cool the city and at the same time remove atmospheric pollutants. Cycling or walking instead of driving mitigates GHG emissions as well as anthropogenic heat in the city. Also important to keep in mind is that adaptation options, particularly those of conventional 'grey' infrastructure, may make greater demands on energy and material resources. They require a smart design to minimize trade-offs in terms of GHG emissions and, hence, to limit the mitigation challenge. From the other hand, mitigation measures such as insulation programs may well lead to overheating in buildings when solar radiation enters through windows and is trapped, therefore they should be combined with adaptation measures such as shading and ventilation.
Responding effectively to climate change ensures a good quality of life for citizens (i.e. keeping them healthy and safe)and is now more important than ever, as it affects many aspects of urban living.
Examples of different adaptation approaches and complementary benefits at different water levels due to flooding (Source: EEA)
Dealing with climate change challenges: examples of incremental and transformational approaches (Source: EEA)
How climate change affects urban living, working and moving (Source: EEA)