Local authorities in Europe are facing an increasingly urgent challenge in adapting to the impacts of climate change, which can include more frequent and severe heatwaves, droughts, floods, storms, and other extreme weather events.
Cities are particularly vulnerable to these hazards, given their dense populations, infrastructure, and economic activities. Whether it’s the intense heatwaves leading to health risks for vulnerable populations and putting strain on energy systems or flooding and storm surges damaging buildings and infrastructure in Coastal cities, or again, droughts impacting agriculture, industry, and drinking water supplies: local governments are constantly grappling with the harmful impacts of climate change on their territories.
The challenges of cities adapting to climate change
The Policy Support Facility (PSF) is a 2-year pilot programme of the Covenant of Mayors aiming to support local authorities to overcome these challenges and implement effective adaptation measures addressing the impacts of climate change.
Launched last year, the PSF programme began by listening to the needs expressed by local authorities in matters of adaptation.
Boosting in-house knowledge around nature-based solutions
One key challenge is the need to boost staff knowledge on nature-based solutions, which are increasingly seen as an effective way to reduce the impacts of climate change, such as floods and droughts. Many local authorities lack the expertise and technical knowledge required to implement such solutions effectively.
“Thanks to external national grants, most cities already have an adaptation action plan/strategy including a detailed assessment on climate scenarios and vulnerabilities to climate change. But developing these resources is highly dependent on external consultants as municipalities lack expertise in this area.” – Iwona Korohoda, Covenant National Coordinator in Poland
Access to financing & navigating public funding
Climate change adaptation requires significant investment, and local authorities often face significant barriers to securing the necessary funding. Without adequate funding, many adaptation projects may not be implemented, leaving communities vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Engaging local citizens and stakeholders
While there is growing recognition of the need for stakeholder engagement in climate adaptation, many local authorities nonetheless struggle to effectively engage with their communities. Failure to do so can lead to a lack of buy-in for adaptation measures, making them less effective in practice.
Implementing adaptation measures coherently and efficiently
Climate change adaptation also requires a comprehensive and integrated approach that considers the interactions between different sectors and systems. However, many local authorities lack the capacity to implement such an approach, leading to fragmented and disjointed adaptation efforts.
Prioritisation of adaptation efforts
Finally, while there is growing awareness of the need for adaptation measures, many local authorities still prioritise mitigation efforts over adaptation. This can lead to a lack of investment in adaptation measures, leaving communities vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Addressing local authorities’ needs
To respond to these needs, the PSF programme focuses predominantly on building capacity at local level to implement adaptation measures, targeting 12 European countries particularly vulnerable to the hazards of climate change: Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Slovenia, and Croatia.
The programme does this by sharing learnings and knowledge through webinars and podcasts, facilitating knowledge-sharing between peers through national workshops and city-to-city exchanges, and by providing tailored expert assistance for cities in the 12 targeted countries to directly implement adaptation measures.
So far, the PSF programme has engaged over 200 municipalities and 800 participants, resulting in the definition of 37 adaptation measures, ranging from measures related to nature-based solutions, to other focused on the built environment, disaster risk reduction, finance and just transition. Examples of measures being implemented through the PSF include developing climate itineraries in vulnerable neighbourhoods in Cornellà de Llobregat (Spain), feasibility studies for surface water drainage for landslide prevention in Smolyan (Bulgaria), and the creation of climate-adaptive bike paths in Zabok (Croatia).
Bringing together cities working on adaptation through national workshops and direct city-to-city exchanges has revealed the importance of connecting municipalities together to raise their voices. These exchanges can thus facilitate and strengthen alignment between national and local adaptation strategies, making for more robust policies to deal with climate change on the ground.
- Publication date
- 19 May 2023