Urban adaptation in Europe: how cities and towns respond to climate change

EEA assessment report presenting the status quo of adaptation to climate change at the local government level, with particular focus on cities. The assessment presents the overview of climate risks to cities, types of adaptation responses, extent of adaptation planning and actions at the loal level in Europe and opportunities to scale up and speed up implementation of adaptation to climate change at the local level.

Urban Adaptation in Europe
Image: EEA 2020

Key Messages:

  • In the changing climate, the most pronounced impacts in European cities are likely to be caused by extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, flooding and droughts, but other risks including wildfires and vector‑borne diseases are also on the rise.
  • Adapting European cities and towns to inevitable climate change is crucial for the overall resilience of European society because of the population concentration — including vulnerable groups — assets and economic activities in urban areas.
  • The number of cities and towns committed to acting on adaptation to climate change has grown substantially in Europe, supported by the emphasis on urban adaptation in national adaptation strategies, EU policy and key international frameworks. However, the implementation of adaptation actions is still in its infancy, lagging particularly far behind in smaller cities and towns.
  • Early warnings, awareness raising and nature-based solutions emerge as effective and cost-efficient adaptation actions. However, the success of adaptation measures is highly context-dependent and the limited amount of knowledge on the successfulness of various adaptation measures calls for improved monitoring and evaluation of the solutions implemented.
  • There is an urgent need to change the way we plan and construct our cities in the changing climate, because unsustainable urban development — built-up floodplains, progressive surface sealing, small amounts of green space or urban sprawl encroaching on wildfire-and landslide-prone areas — magnifies the impacts of climate‑related hazards.
  • Concerted action at all governance levels — from EU through national to local — is needed to support urban adaptation through improved access to knowledge and funding; political commitment and community engagement; and mainstreaming adaptation into all policy areas.
  • The absence of a single, comprehensive overview of adaptation planning and action at the local government level in Europe precludes a detailed assessment of the level of preparedness for climate change in Europe. Streamlined monitoring and reporting of local adaptation plans and actions is needed if EU and national governments are to effectively support local adaptation.

Edition / Volume: EEA Report No 12/2020
Pages: 192
Standard identifier: ISBN 978-92-9480-270-5