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.