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Cities and towns

In Europe, nearly 73% of the population lives in urban areas and this is projected to increase. Climate change has the potential to influence almost all components of the urban environment and raises new, complex challenges. Thereby, climate change impacts on cities as hubs of Europe's economic activity, social life and culture, innovation and knowledge-creation have repercussions far beyond the city borders. As a city specific action of the EU Adaptation Strategy, the European Commission ... 



has initiated "Mayors Adapt" to foster urban adaptation on the local level.

The impacts of climate change, which cities in Europe will experience, differ based on their geographical location and intrinsic vulnerabilities. However, all cities are likely to be affected and climate change will impact many aspects of urban living, quality of life and the provision of essential services such as transport, water, energy, health care etc.  Poor urban design can aggravate the impacts of climate change. For example, soil sealing, a prevalence of built areas and lack of green space leads to higher urban temperatures and thermal discomfort (the so-called 'urban heat island effect'); the impermeability of the sealed areas reduces natural drainage which, particularly during heavy rains, can lead to urban floods. Urban design aimed at tackling climate change, for example, through boosting green infrastructure, could have numerous co-benefits even beyond the increased resilience of a city, including improved air quality, better health, support for biodiversity and enhanced quality of life.

Policy framework

Although the European Commission has no direct responsibility in cities, it has different urban policies in place to support cities. The EU Urban Agenda, calls for a better coordination between these numerous EU policies covering climate change mitigation and adaptation, environmental, social and economic issues. It outlines adaptation to climate change as one of the key societal challenges to be addressed under this framework.

Through Mayors Adapt, an initiative proceeding from the EU Adaptation Strategy’s Priority Action 3: Promoting adaptation action by cities the European Commission engages cities in taking action to adapt to climate change. Numerous cities and towns across the EU have signed up to the initiative. In October 2015 the initiative was merged with the Covenant of Mayors into the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy that covers now both adaptation and mitigation action.

Beyond EU policy, international organisations like the Compact of Mayors under the leadership of global city networks and the UN, national and regional governments provide a supportive framework for urban adaptation. Furthermore, there are various city networks  and associations active in Europe that provide capacity building and support on urban adaptation.

Improving the knowledge base and knowledge transfer

In order to strengthen the urban adaptation knowledge base and to share the knowledge the European Commission and their institutions use various support pathways.

The European Commission provides the web-based Urban Adaptation Support Tool  within the frame of the Mayors Adapt initiative. It helps urban adaptation practitioners to plan and implement their adaptation actions and provides access to information resources specifically designed for urban conditions. Furthermore, cities enjoy the opportunity for peer-to-peer learning via Mayors Adapt twinning programme.

Several reports have been published by European institutions like the European Environmental Agency’s (EEA) report Urban adaptation to climate change in Europe. It provides overview information on the vulnerability of Europe's cities and the opportunities to meet the challenges.

The interactive Urban Vulnerability Map book of the EEA provides indicators and maps providing a perspective on the situation of cities across the EU. It puts data from different sources, such as City Statistics (formerly Urban Audit), Urban Atlas, ESPON and the Climate-ADAPT map viewer, into the context of urban vulnerability and allows cities to explore their own and their peers’ situation.

Several research and innovation funding programmes are put in place by the European Commission to further develop the urban adaptation knowledge. 'Smart and Sustainable Cities' is a focus area and cross-cutting activities of the 2016-2017 work programme of the EU research programme Horizon2020. It includes, among other areas, sustainable urbanisation and nature-based solutions for adapting cities to climate change. Its preceding Framework Programmes (FP7) have already supported numerous research projects that have produced results highly relevant for urban adaptation. Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) Urban Europe coordinates urban resilience research among Member States and finances urban-specific climate change research through joint calls. Climate-KIC climate innovation initiative is one of three Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) and aims to develop promising climate innovations and bring them to market. It features both adaptation and sustainable urban development among their eight themes. Furthermore, the EU Joint Research Centre (JRC) as well as ESPON 2020 and COST - EU funded integrated inter-disciplinary and transboundary cooperation-based research programmes - have been addressing urban resilience and adaptation.

Likewise, the European Commission, European organisations and city networks are organizing or supporting knowledge sharing events to facilitate share experiences, learn from others and discuss solutions among them the ‘Open European Day Resilient Cities'  and Mayors Adapt events.

Supporting investment and funding

At least 20% of the entire European Union budget 2014-2020 is foreseen for climate-related projects, including both mitigation and adaptation.

LIFE programme 2014-2020 supports projects in the development of innovative ways to respond to the challenges of climate change in Europe by integrating adaptation into urban land use planning, building layouts and natural resources' management. LIFE Action Grants call 2015 supports a wide range of adaptation-related local-level activities: from developing policy and management approaches, to improving the knowledge base, as well as mainstreaming adaptation and the development of adaptation strategies. The demonstration of innovative adaptation measures is also supported.

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) offers ample opportunities for supporting adaptation interventions in urban areas. Climate change adaptation is one of the priorities, and the fund additionally foresees that a minimum of 5% of the resources of the Partnership Agreements shall be allocated to sustainable urban development. It also finances INTERREG cooperation programme that supports cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation on innovation, knowledge economy, environment and risk prevention and is also addressing urban adaptation in their calls.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) considers adaptation aspects as part of their financing support for Integrated, sustainable urban renewal programmes via the JESSICA programme. Two targeted instruments have been developed by EIB in cooperation with European Commission that inter alia support adaptation action: Natural Capital Financing Facility can be applied to finance nature-based adaptation measures and Private Finance for Energy Efficiency instrument enables local banks in EU Member States issue loans for energy efficiency measures.



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