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Covenant of Mayors - Europe
News article6 December 2023

Adapting to climate change: Barrelling forward in Debrecen

Tune into Episode 7 of our Podcast series on Adaptation to discover actions taken in Debrecen and how they engaged through the Covenant’s Policy Support Facility to come up with a simple idea to tackle flooding.


Debrecen, a growing liveable city of 200.000 inhabitants, is at the forefront of climate adaptation measures through its participation in the Covenant of Mayors' Policy Support Facility programme. Despite its charm, the Hungarian city is facing threats from extreme flooding to droughts.  

In our last podcast episode on Adaptation, we engaged in a conversation with Dorottya Hornik Horváth, urban development expert at the EDC, Debrecen non-Profit organization. Zuzana Hudekova, external expert for this Policy Support Facility programme, brings her expertise as a landscape and urban architect, working closely with cities on diverse projects. And Erika Jacsmenik, senior expert in urban development at EDC Debrecen, serves as the coordinator of the PSF project and is actively involved in steering the city’s climate action initiatives. 

Debrecen, vulnerable to the effect of climate change, joined the PSF programme.

Debrecen, a committed member of the Covenant of Mayors since 2017, aims to achieve the European Union’s carbon neutrality targets by 2050. Aware of the urgent need to tackle climate change, the city saw an invaluable opportunity in integrating the PSF programme. Already involved in projects linked to mitigation measures, the city is now prioritising adaptation measures to the effects of climate change, with a particular focus on flood management and water-based solutions.

Facing both extreme flooding and droughts, Debrecen experienced the harsh realities of climate change last summer. To combat these challenges, the city initiated the establishment of rainwater retention systems. The aim is not only to fight flooding, but also to urgently implement a solution for retaining and reusing rainwater.

The implementation of adaptation measures has been possible thanks to the cooperation fostered by the PSF programme. The city collaborated with local businesses to encourage them to develop their corporate social responsibility (CSR) and involve them in environmental solutions. This cooperation has extended to citizens, the municipality and the municipal water company, promoting collaboration between the city's various departments. It was an opportunity for the city to bring together and reflect on the problems associated with rainwater, flooding and drought, involving local citizens in the process.

“Water is our common treasure” initiative

Under the banner of "Water is our common treasure", Debrecen developed a pilot project within the PSF  aimed at recovering rainwater and reusing it when needed. The city distributed 500 rainwater harvesting barrels free of charge to the public. This initiative not only raised awareness about the importance of rainwater retention but also facilitated collaboration with local experts and companies through Corporate Social Responsibility activities, involving five local companies. By engaging the local community, the city garnered support and innovative solutions to address flood-related challenges. 

Looking ahead, the city aims to expand the distribution of rainwater barrels while maintaining its commitment to climate adaptation goals. Debrecen successfully met expectations, fostering collaboration with external experts, and implementing a pilot project with success. 

Tune into our podcast for more! 

Listen to the full podcast episode to discover how Debrecen has adapted to climate change and developed a new pilot project for water management in extreme weather conditions. 



6 December 2023