Adaptation Strategies for European Cities

Assessing and Developing the Capacity of Cities to Adapt to Climate Change

Country: EU Member States

The aims of this project were to provide capacity building and assistance for cities in developing and implementing an adaptation strategy. The project also intended to raise awareness throughout Europe of the importance of preparing for climate change particularly in cities. Exchange of knowledge,good practice and development of tools and guidance on how cities can adapt to climate change were also important aspects of the project. CaDD (previously known as PACT) was a key tool in identifying the needs of the cities and as a tool to be shared to aid further capacity development.

Raising the Profile of Urban Adaptation
The project has highlighted that there is an appetite and enthusiasm for adaptation at city level and that cities view adaptation strongly as an opportunity to enhance sustainability and quality of life. City planners and key target groups were able to see how climate change challenges and risks can be transformed into significant opportunities. Political resistance to implementing adaptation measures has been reduced through presenting potential no-regret or low-regret measures, win-win solutions and good practice examples from other European cities.

The project was able to bring political leaders (such as Mayors or Deputy Mayors) to see the importance of climate change adaptation to the city’s socio-economic development agenda. It helped to link adaptation and mitigation agendas (e.g. in Lahti) and provided vital encouragement to political leaders, who are prioritising adaptation within long-term city policies and plans and who are now showing commitment to implementation of adaptation

The project identified that key drivers at city level for action on adaptation are the links to broader policy issues, including sustainable urban development and improvements to quality of life – this may be an important lever given the current economic challenges faced by many European cities. However, national,regional requirements and recommendations are essential to provide a ‘policy push’; to encourage the development of city level adaptation strategies. So that cities are able to gain local political commitment and establish a mandate to develop an adaptation strategy. As well as justifying and building the required resources to follow this through.

At an individual city level, participation in the project provided a bespoke starting point to initiate thinking and discussion amongst key stakeholders on adaptation.Positioning adaptation on the local government agenda for the first time in many cities.

Improving the Knowledge Base
The project delivered an improved understanding of the state of play of adaptation in European cities.

Geographical differences in adaptive capacity exist (with cities in the north and west of Europe generally having higher levels of adaptive capacity than those in the south and east). This implied that tailored programmes to enhance adaptive capacity would be most effective to address specific needs and contexts. The experiences from coaching different cities also reinforced that adaptive capacities and barriers seem to vary greatly. There is no single “best practice” approach to the development of adaptation strategies. Each city has to identify their specific strategic objectives and develop their adaptation strategy accordingly.

Capacity Building in the Cities
Twenty one cities from across Europe were selected to participate in the capacity building and training phase of the project.

During the project, adaptive capacity has been built in all of the participating cities. Both training and peer cities have benefited. Some of the cities were completely new to adaptation and have taken their first steps. Some of the cities have progressed their initial efforts into new sectors or have used this project to underpin other projects to support adaptation. For many, the project served as an important opportunity to build capacity among wider authorities and stakeholders.

Finally, the discussions with the cities helped to investigate the challenges and barriers to the sustainability of adaptation projects and programmes in the cities. The key challenges to adaptation most commonly reflected upon during the coaching visits were:

  • The lack of awareness or understanding of adaptation
  • Lack of baseline information
  • Dispersed data and lack of coordination across departments
  • Greater emphasis on mitigation as opposed to adaptation
  • Ineffective internal communication
  • The lack of adequate political commitment or funding

The project demonstrated that each cities’ adaptation challenge is unique in many ways. It also demonstrated that if the framework for capacity building and information exchange on adaptation can be provided by an overarching network, then cities will engage,can be supported and coached to make rapid progress in the development of strategies.

In developing the networks of support it is important to know what the components of an individual city’s capacity for adaptation are. To match them in learning partnerships with others that are not too far ahead of them in capacity. Our experience shows that in these pairings, acting on the lessons feels achievable and makes sense from their current position. The power of CaDD metrics is being able to identify the priority actions for building capacity in the short, medium and long term. This greatly improves the efficiency with which cities and others achieve the capacity required for resilience in a changing yet uncertain future climate.

In building capacity, the project showed that there is a role for both external coordinating and facilitation a) to provide coherent methodologies and b) to create and support political commitment to participate in the process (e.g. by means of Mayoral declarations). This is a very important outcome for progressing implementation of the EU Adaptation Strategy.

There is scope for future initiatives to learn from the experience of this project in linking research and capacity building. From the perspective of cities, the training and coaching elements seemed to have the greatest impact. There would be scope to integrate the research and analysis elements more closely between participating cities.

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