ARCHIVES: This is legacy content from before Sustainable Cities Collective was relaunched as Smart Cities Dive in early 2017. Some information, such as publication dates or images, may not have migrated over. For the latest in smart city news, check out the new Smart Cities Dive site or sign up for our daily newsletter.

100 Cities Sign Up for Climate Change Adaptation Program

Mayors Adapt summit group photo of 100 mayors

Mayors Adapt summit group photo of 100 mayors.

The first pan-European initiative to support cities in leading the way on adaptation to climate change has seen 100 cities be recognised at the Mayors Adapt Signature Ceremony in Brussels last week attended by high-level representatives.

The EU initiative Mayors Adapt has been set up to engage cities on climate change adaptation and to support them in taking action. The initiative is being implemented by a consortium led by Ecofys, comprised of Climate Alliance, Fresh Thoughts and IFOK GmbH.

As pointed out by Humberto Delgado Rosa, Director, DG Climate Action, European Commission, the recent devastating floods in central and south east Europe demonstrate the dramatic economic and social consequences extreme weather can have on our cities and citizens. "Effective action needs to be tailored to specific circumstances, which will vary from region to region," he said.

J Delbeke, the European Commission's Direct-General of Climate ActionRight: J Delbeke, the European Commission's Direct-General of Climate Action at the event.

In Europe, 17 member states so far have national adaption strategies or plans and the Covenant of Mayors has seen almost 6000 towns and cities commit to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% below 1990 levels by 2020.

Mayors Adapt is built on this tradition and has already gained global recognition of its timely relevance to help cities in becoming more resilient to climate risks. Cities signing up to the initiative agree to draw up local adaptation strategies, or include climate action within existing plans. They must submit their strategies within two years and report on progress every two years.

While no direct project financing is available under the initiative, the EU's decision to dedicate at least 20% of its entire budget for 2014-2020 to climate-related action means that projects focusing on urban adaptation can apply for co-financing.

Cities that join the initiative will receive support from a dedicated team, made up of experts from across Europe.

Ecofys has been working to develop the project with Michael Bloomberg's office and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, now UN Special Envoy on Cities and Climate Change, sent the following video message of support:

EU Commissioner HedegaardEU Commissioner Hedegaardwas present at the signing ceremony, where she said: "When we launched Mayors Adapt in March, we aimed to build a network of at least 50 cities by the end of the year. We already have 100 and more are queuing up to join. Our cities are building up their resilience against climate change and this is great news for citizens and businesses.

"Good preparation will be much cheaper than cleaning up afterwards - and it can save lives."

Christiane Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC joined mayors from Copenhagen, Lisbon and Munich, and the Commissioner, to discuss challenges and opportunities of action on adaptation.

"We are considering actions on climate change as a major part of planning for the future – for a number of years now, we are engaged in action on adaptation to climate change. Mayors Adapt offers us a great opportunity to tackle the issue head-on." said Josef Schmid, Deputy Mayor of Munich, during the debate.

In one of the afternoon sessions, mayors from signatory cities shared their experiences in the coordination of climate change policy. Nabilla Ait Daoud, Deputy Mayor of Antwerp, said afterwards that this "helped us to better tackle these challenges. We benefit from each other's best practices to make our cities more resilient."

Ji?í Buriánek, Secretary-General of the Committee of the Regions, and Vittorio Prodi, Former Member of the European Parliament, wrapped up the Mayors Adapt Signatory Event with concluding remarks on how the EU contributes to climate-resilient urban development.

The Urban Adaptation Support Tool

An Urban Adaptation Support Tool has been developed as part of the Mayors Adapt initiative to provide practical guidance and knowledge support to any interested cities, towns or stakeholders. There is other technical support also.

It supports urban adaptation decision-makers, practitioners and interested stakeholders with a quick-start step-by-step guidance through the adaptation planning and implementation cycles. Access to in-depth, expert information and data is also available through a database of literature and information sources for each step.

There are six steps:

1. Preparing the ground for adaptation

Amongst the issues discussed here are the need to obtain and assure high level support, set up adequate coordination mechanisms, clarify roles and responsibilities, explore funding opportunities, identify already available information and increase awareness or understanding of climate change issues within the urban area.

2. Assessing risks and vulnerabilities to climate change

Developing a comprehensive picture of current and future climate change risks in an urban area as well as further stress factors to be expected. It will also help identify opportunities and provide information on how to assess adaptive capacity and cope with uncertainty. Adaptation cannot be planned solely on the basis of climate projections; information on risk and vulnerabilities is also needed to determine how the climate interacts with socio-economic issues.

3. Identifying adaptation options

Devising a detailed plan of action ideally setting out how, when and by whom specific adaptation measures should be implemented is crucial to achieve action on the ground. To develop this plan of action it is important to identify potential adaptation options and narrow them down.

Adaptation options can range from actions (also called 'soft measures') that build adaptive capacity (e.g. sharing information, creating supportive institutional framework) or establish management systems and supportive mechanisms (e.g. better land management planning, insurance mechanisms) to concrete adaptation measures, often referred to as 'grey' (e.g. infrastructure development) or 'green' (eco-system based measures) measures.

4. Assessing and selecting adaptation options

This is about prioritising the options to determine their suitability to the regional context, their effectiveness in reducing vulnerability or enhancing resilience and their wider impact on sustainability. The objective is to avoid decisions that lead to mal-adaptation. The process happens in close collaboration with all stakeholders impacted in the process.

5. Implementation

This can be either a dedicated adaptation strategy and an accompanying action plan or a plan for mainstreaming adaptation in the existing relevant policy fields. The strategic direction and targets are described and the action plan set in motion, either on its own or as an integrated part of the national adaptation strategy.

6. Monitoring and evaluation

This is essential to ensure the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of adaptation interventions, partly because cities are still at an early stage in understanding how best to adapt to future climate change, how risks can be most effectively reduced and resilience enhanced and what the characteristics of a well-adapting society might be.

Furthermore, urban areas are dynamic entities and changes often occur within a short time period. Autonomous adaptation might occur alongside planned efforts, which need to be anticipated and taken into account as well. It is also monitor any unanticipated side-effects.

Adaptation is an iterative process and monitoring and evaluation requires pragmatism and a clear sense of purpose.

In addition to a much expanded version of the above six steps, the tool also contains case studies, guidelines for project managers, a map viewer, uncertainty guidance and much more.