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Cities are centres of economic growth and engines of the European economic development. Due to their socio-economic structures, urban areas are major contributors to climate change. Indeed, lifestyle, consumption and production generate significant greenhouse gas emissions, hence the mitigation challenge. At the same time, cities depend on services provided by other cities and rural areas, such as the production of food and other goods, flood retention or provision of drinking water. Climate change has direct impacts on cities, such as health problems due to heat, or flooding damage to buildings and infrastructure. Many knock-on impacts affect other areas, sectors and people inside and outside the city. Climate change is thus a systemic challenge for cities and their surroundings and affects the market economy as well as its citizens, especially the most vulnerable. The EU Adaptation Strategy, the action plan defined by the Paris Climate Agreement (2016), the UN Sustainable Development Goals (especially SDG 13) further highlight the need for cities to take action. Well-adapted and climate-resilient cities therefore matter for a climate-resilient Europe. Strong mitigation efforts are needed to keep climate change impacts down to a level that still allows the major services we get from nature and society to function reasonably well. However, as climate change is already happening, we need to adapt to its unavoidable impacts. Thus, addressing climate change requires mitigation and adaptation in a complementary approach. Hence, the UIA Initiative invited EU urban authorities to experiment innovative adaptation solutions that combine sustainable development pathways with equitable outcomes and deal with:

  • Environmental vulnerabilities. Heat, flooding, water scarcity and droughts are the main climate threats relevant specifically to cities. Others can also be important for some cities, such as forest fires, damage from high wind speeds, and spread of infectious diseases. Nature based solutions, green and blue infrastructure as flood/heat solutions and the way of adapting them to the local vulnerabilities are the central foci of the topic.
  • Social vulnerabilities. The call outlined the importance of taking into account social aspects within the projects such as structural inequalities and poverty while involving citizens in urban adaptation projects to increase social awareness of climate-related hazards.
  • Governance issues. As underlined in the Report on Urban adaptation of the European Environment Agency (EEA, 2016), climate change is a systemic challenge that needs systemic and integrated solutions that need cooperation, involvement and appropriate governance. Thus, this call also focussed on innovative solutions regarding governance schemes, promoting multi-stakeholder and multi-level governance and fostering bottom-up and capacity building models at both the neighbourhood and community level.

Trends of the solutions proposed

More than 40 urban authorities proposed innovative solutions to the climate change challenges, showing the high interest of urban authorities for such topic in the European context. Most of them proposed adaptation solutions, meaning solutions to adjust to actual or expected climate effects on urban life. Indeed, although the majority of the proposals addressed water and climate warming associated risks, they develop an integrative approach including a wide range of solutions such as:

  • nature-based solutions (e.g. flood management, water retention or sustainable urban drainage systems),
  • grey, green and blue infrastructures (e.g. wetlands, green walls, green and blue roofs or treated wastewater networks),
  • construction solutions (e.g. bioclimatic approaches or high albedo materials)
  • smart cities approaches (e.g. APPs, smart metering, platforms, emergency or multi-hazard warning systems) including data management and the use of ICT to prevent impacts and hazards (e.g. floods, fires).

Mitigation solutions, meaning solutions that reduce the sources of greenhouse gases, also appeared to be combined with adaptation ones in some proposals. They dealt with energy efficiency and proposed circular economy measures in order to reduce the impact of economic activities on greenhouse gas emissions.

UIA projects, solutions implemented and common issues

  • RESILIO – Resilience nEtwork of Smart Innovative cLImate-adaptive rOoftops, Amsterdam
  • GBG_AS2C - Blue, Green & Grey_Adapting Schools to Climate Change, Barcelona
  • IGNITION - Innovative financinG aNd delIvery of naTural clImate sOlutioNs, Greater Manchester
  • OASIS - School yards: Openness, Adaptation, Sensitisation, Innovation and Social ties: Design and transformation of local urban areas adapted to climate change, working jointly with users, Paris
  • GUARDIAN - Green Urban Actions for Resilient fire Defence of the Interface Area, Riba-roja de Túria
  • CartujaQanat - Recovering the street life in a climate changing world, Sevilla

Looking at the 6 projects gives an overview of the crosscutting issues that urban authorities are dealing with. Overall, the projects are addressing the climate change consequences through technical, nature-based solutions (NBS), green/grey/blue infrastructures that target vulnerable groups and develop cooperation schemes to foster private sector’s involvement.

Many urban authorities are particularly exposed to extreme weather events (heavy rains, heat waves), while at the same time, they experience a low degree of adaptation of their infrastructures, equipment and public spaces. Extreme weather events also represent a great human and financial cost for cities, with unpredictable consequences on housing, transport, citizens’ physical and mental health and economy in general. Capitalizing on the ecosystem services that nature can provide, urban authorities take the lead in developing green and blue infrastructure programs to mitigate, manage and prevent those effects. The Amsterdam’s project is dealing with both heat and water issues. The RESILIO project develops a solution based on the ecosystem services water and plants can provide to buildings and, in a broader sense, to the urban metabolism. More specifically, the project aims at testing and implementing at the neighbourhood scale, smart blue and green roofs that will facilitate the evaporation effect and increase water retention capacity, while the smart control will monitor the roofs, taking into account weather broadcast. The Great Manchester (IGNITION) takes the same approach to ecosystem services by implementing a set of economic incentives and finance mechanisms to enable and facilitate investments in NBS and green infrastructure. The aim is for the urban authority to take the lead and to persuade businesses and organisations to take over such investments. Other projects such as GBG AS2C in Barcelona and OASIS in Paris also capitalise on ecosystem services in order to monitor climate effects by implementing green and blue infrastructure in schools.  As for Sevilla’s project, it focusses on monitoring heat waves especially in the underused neighbourhood of La Cartuja. CartujaQanat project will implement a set of socio-economic adaptation and technical solutions such as an underground aqueduct that use water and air as cooling agents with poor energy demanding solutions.


Consequences of climate change often strike the most vulnerable groups. Therefore, selected projects’ solutions often target young and elderly people. For example, the RESILIO project mostly aims at retrofitting 8.000 m2 roof of social housing complexes in Amsterdam, while  Barcelona and Paris municipalities chose to target people severely affected by climate change, namely children. As Barcelona is particularly exposed to increasing high temperatures during summer time, the GBG AS2C project develops a package of measures to adapt schools to climate change. The urban authority implements green, grey and blue infrastructures in playgrounds – including plants and water, retrofitting programs to improve both children’s and citizen’s quality of life as schools will be open during summer. The nature-based retrofitting of cities’ playgrounds thus creates a great capillarity of biodiversity, refreshes the urban metabolism and ensures public and liveable spaces in all neighbourhoods. The OASIS project develops a very similar approach adapted to Paris schools’ playgrounds. Indeed, the projects aims at converting these mineral and impermeable infrastructures in cool islands open to citizens. The transformations will emerge through a co-design process carried out with the pupils, the educational community and several municipal services, as a mean to set up integrated solutions while also will raise climate change awareness among students and professionals.


Paris school

Most of projects tackling urban issues in an integrated way require a comprehensive collaborative scheme. Considering the diversity and complexity of climate change challenges, municipalities develop their solutions together with cooperation mechanisms to get a large scale of stakeholders involved. The municipalities of Riba and Roja have formed a strong partnership to tackle a common issue regarding the Turia and Vallesa forests’ ecological protection and fire resilience. The GUARDIAN project develop a wildland-urban defensive interface between the Natural Parks and these two cities by using recycled water for fire mitigation and protection, providing preventive irrigation and extinction water spraying. In order to do so, the municipalities involved had to build a strong governance scheme, for instance to monitor the Waste Water Treatment Plant connection to the fire defensive system. Cooperation schemes are also important to get private business on board. The Great Manchester (IGNITION) is for instance developing a set of mechanisms to fund, deliver and maintain green infrastructure and NBS projects in order to increase investors’ confidence in making such investment. In Sevilla, the CartujaQanat project also develops an economic set of solutions requiring a strong cooperation scheme that involve the local business ecosystem. It aims at increasing and diversifying job-prospects and skills around the green economy, thus adapting the local economic structures to the impacts of climate change. Through organised participatory mechanisms targeting local and global stakeholders, the program is due to develop innovative business solutions building on the natural and technical innovations the project is expected to produce.

riba roja

Get inspired and find more with UIA experts and UIA Knowledge Lab

UIA experts capture, analyse and narrate the main findings, lessons learnt and experiences coming from the different UIA Climate adaptation projects. Look for their journals (analysis on main challenges for implementation) zoom-ins (focus on a crosscutting dimension or specific component of the project) and web articles (gives an overview of the project), to get deeper knowledge about adaption to climate change related topics. 

Explore the UIA Knowledge Lab and search for key words such as: green infrastructure, nature-based solutions


proposals received


projects approved

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Climate adaptation's projects