One of the actions of the Climate Adaptation Partnership focuses on “Training Academies for politicians on climate adaptation”. The second Political Training Academy on climate adaptation was held during the European Week of Regions and Cities (EWRC) 9 October 2019. Previously, as part of this action, various other local and general training academies have been organized. It followed the first Political Training Academy on climate adaptation, held in Oslo last May, and a local training academy in Glasgow (held last June).
For the second Political Training Academy, EUROCITIES invited Jean-Marc Jancovici, climate expert, to train local politicians and provide them with a with a bold and engaging perspective on the causes and consequences of the climate crisis. He emphasised the irreversible nature of climate change and the urgent need of taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage that urban areas will have to face.
Looking back through history from the sharpened perspective of an engineering consultant, Jancovici spelled out the process from which cities have emerged: the industrial revolution brought mankind abundant energy leading to an increase in agricultural production and therefore less manpower required in the agricultural sector. This process led to the development of large cities. However, the flip side of the coin is the exponential growth of emissions coming from energy use, impacting climate and the environment on a global scale.
Becoming climate neutral is the most tremendous transformation that cities have to face. To keep global warming in a 2°C scenario is still possible, but would entail a drastic and very quick global GHG emissions cut. However, even if we bring our emissions to zero, we are still going to be living the extreme events caused by global warming, for at least 20 years. The environmental, economic and social aspects of this transition are closely interconnected, meaning that our approach to climate adaptation must be based on systemic solutions. Adapting cities involves a paradigm shift from an energy abundant world to another model that integrates all the externalities caused by energy consumption. Environmental effects need to be integrated inside the market mechanisms and be compensated.
Jancovici stressed the urgent need for decision makers to make choices which take into account all aspects of the transition, and that allow all stakeholders and actors to have a say in the process. Cities are best placed to trigger this process, and this is what the City of Copenhagen did in 2010, by co-designing with local actors a comprehensive climate adaptation plan. Janus Christoffersen, head of division in the Centre for Climate Adaptation, shared insights on how the process started with the Cloudburst Management Plan, and how adaptation gained political and public support.
In conclusion, Elena Višnar Malinovská, Head of Unit for Adaptation in DG Climate Action in the EU Commission, shared the need to accelerate climate adaptation actions, going beyond awareness raising and investing more on scaling up solutions that work at the local level. Some of the priorities of the European Commission in the next period will go in this direction, promoting re-vegetalisation, nature-based solutions, and climate proofing of buildings.
Take away message
The climate changes we are experiencing are going to be more severe, and extreme weather events more frequent. This workshop presented scientific evidence on the urgency to adopt local adaptation measures. The example of Copenhagen demonstrated 3 key success factors for an adaptation plan: gain political and public support; have a strong business case demonstrating economic value; and have a holistic vision of the city development, which includes mechanisms for continuous reshaping of the plan to face evolving adaptation needs.
More information and the presentations used during the training can be found here.