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The Urban Adaptation Support Tool - Getting started

0.3 What is adaptation to climate change and why does it matter in my city/town?

European cities and towns are exposed to various climate change impacts, even more so if they are located in especially vulnerable areas. They also experience city-specific impacts, such as urban heat island effect. This exposure combines with the inherent vulnerabilities of urban areas: the inter-dependency of crucial networks and systems, limited space for competing land-uses, limited flexibility to changes in current built infrastructure, considerable sizes of vulnerable population groups, combination with other pressures, such as growing urbanisation. Ignoring climate change risks may threaten sustainable development, hamper the achievement of targets and goals in other policy areas. It may also increase potential disaster risk levels and physical and financial damages, and reduce the overall quality of life in a city or town. Therefore, adaptation merits timely consideration by city administrations.


Current and future changes in the earth’s climate are unavoidable. Even with the highest level of mitigation effort we are exposed to climate impacts now and in decades and centuries to come due to the long lifetime of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere already emitted. Climate changes represent both risks and opportunities. Adaptation is the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects, seeking to moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. As described in Q0.1.

Cities in Europe are vital centres of economic activity, innovation, employment and population. Currently many European cities face problems and challenges from pressures such as overcrowding, ageing infrastructure, increasing congestion and competition for services. Such pressures can lead to social problems and unemployment in urban neighbourhoods and environmental problems such as pollution from transport and industry. These problems can often affect a much broader area than the city itself, as demands for energy, waste management and other resources such as water reach far beyond the administrative boundaries of the city.

Cities often concentrate infrastructure within the same geographic area, thereby linking many critical systems. In the case of extreme weather events and resulting impacts, there would be knock-on consequences for the country. Climate change impacts might intensify these problems, but may also provide opportunities for new developments and business. Therefore, adaptation to climate change is not only important for the sustainable development of cities and towns, but also to keep the damage and the economic losses at a minimum.

Due to their direct experience of the already felt impacts of climate change and high understanding of the need for adaptation action, cities and towns across Europe are already pioneering adaptation in their country and creating a nudge for national-level processes.

EU City-specific information

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EU General information

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