Illustration Adaptation to climate change

Signatories to the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy commit to adopting an integrated approach to tackling mitigation and adaptation to climate change and to promoting access to sustainable, secure and affordable energy to their citizens.

Adopting an integrated approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation ensures consistency of actions, creates synergies and co-benefits, increases cost-efficiency, and helps avoid maladaptation. For more information on how to create a truly integrated approach and address the inter-relationships between adaptation and mitigation, check out this short article and this explanation on Climate-ADAPT.

Mayors Adapt now fully integrated into the Covenant of Mayors

Mayors Adapt – the Covenant of Mayors Initiative on Climate Change Adaptation – was set up by the European Commission to engage cities in taking action to adapt to climate change. It was launched in 2014 as a parallel adaptation initiative to the Covenant of Mayors, which focused on mitigation. In 2015, the European Commission merged the two initiatives in an effort to promote an integrated approach to climate and energy action. From 2017 onwards, adaptation and therefore the Mayors Adapt initiative, will be entirely integrated into the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.

What does adaptation mean for cities?

In parallel to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change, cities also need to strengthen their resilience to the inevitable adverse impacts of climate change.

The impacts of climate change will affect all cities across Europe but with regional and local differences. European cities are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events, typically severe floods, heat waves or exceptional storms. Many of them have already experienced other consequences of climate change, namely effects on health, damage to homes, power and water supply failures, disruption of transport, and increased energy use for heating or cooling, which exacerbates climate change and increases energy bills. According to the EEA report on "Urban adaptation to climate change in Europe 2016", the 2002 flooding in Dresden inflicted damages to the community services that amounted to EUR 80 million. Damages to buildings amounted to EUR 100 million as a consequence of the 2014 flash floods in Genoa. As major centres of population and infrastructure, cities therefore play a central role in enhancing the EU’s resilience through adaptation.

Adaptation creates new opportunities

Adapting to climate change is necessary to strengthen the resilience of our social and economic systems to the negative impacts of a changing climate. Adapting to climate change is a way of making your city a safer, healthier, greener, and more liveable place for its citizens and visitors. An integrated approach to mitigation and adaptation creates numerous opportunities. Effective adaptation action also often reduces CO2 emissions, while in the first place limiting overall damage costs, preserving natural and human assets, and stimulating economic growth.

Definition of Adaptation according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.

The EU Adaptation Strategy sets out the framework for strengthening Europe’s resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Integrating adaption into mitigation and planning policies can provide new opportunities for EU mayors and political leaders to make cities more liveable. Breaking the mould in urban development stimulates investment and innovative concepts for things like housing or public green spaces. Strengthening stakeholder participation lays the foundation for fruitful cooperation among citizens and public administration, which may benefit further policy areas as well. By investing in climate preparedness, cities become more attractive, healthier and safer.

What adaptation-specific information does the Covenant of Mayors offer?

  • The Covenant of Mayors Monitoring and Reporting framework now includes a section on adaptation to climate change:
    • The template for Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans (SECAP) contains an adaptation scoreboard where cities can conduct a self-assessment of their adaptation status; a template to realize a risk and vulnerabilities assessment, and a template to draw an integrated action plan, addressing the impacts of climate change on all sectors.
  • Case studies and good practice examples:
    • The Covenant of Mayors collects case studies to inspire cities and facilitate peer-to-peer learning.
    • The Covenant of Mayors Office organises a number of adaptation-related city twinnings. The reports from these visits provide insights into learning and exchange and are available here.
  • Funding for integrated climate projects in cities:
    • The Funding instruments page gives an overview of information on funding on the CoM website.
    • The Quick Reference Guide, also linked on the above mentioned funding instruments page, provides an overview of funding opportunities for cities.
  • An e-learning module on adaptation for cities is available for signatories to the Covenant of Mayors exclusively. The module features practical information, case studies and links to further useful resources.

In addition, the European Commission and the European Environment Agency collect technical knowledge specifically on adaptation to climate change on the EU adaptation information platform Climate-ADAPT offering a multitude of information and tools also for city practitioners such as a database of over 2,000 reference materials, adaptation city profile factsheets, and the Urban Adaptation Support Tool, which serves as a step-by-step guide for cities that was developed specifically for the integrated Covenant initiative. The tool guides practitioners through the integrated adaptation policy making process.

Funding for adaptation

To meet the EU’s needs in terms of adaptation, the EU has earmarked approximately 25% of its budget for the 2014-2020 period for activities that promote climate change mitigation and adaptation through the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF). A considerable share of these investments will happen in urban areas.

The five ESIF include the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), European Social Fund (ESF), Cohesion Fund (CF), European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), and the European Fisheries and Maritime Fund (EMFF). Three of the funds (ERDF, ESF, and CF) are the main funding sources for urban adaptation with a EUR 8 billion budget dedicated to risk prevention and management activities. Click here to explore the distribution of available funds and planned activities, and here to learn more about the types of adaptation actions they support.

In addition to these funds, European funding programmes (e.g. LIFE, URBACT III, Horizon 2020), Project Development Assistance (e.g. ELENA EIB, JASPERS), and other financial instruments and schemes facilitate the implementation of urban adaptation actions. For a complete overview of financing opportunities, check out the Covenant of Mayors Quick Reference Guide to Financing Opportunities for Local Climate & Energy Action (2014-2020).

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