Policy papers

Local action necessary to achieve climate goals

8 September 2020

Meeting the EU’s ambition of climate neutrality by 2050, and dealing with the consequences already posed by climate change, will require strengthened efforts to enhance climate adaptation and resilience, while reducing vulnerability. According to the Eurocities network of larger cities, almost 90% of its members have already adopted a climate adaptation strategy “to adjust to the impact of climate change and protect their citizens.”

Yet, as the network points out in a new position paper on climate adaptation, while many bigger cities are first movers, this is not the case across the urban landscape, with only 40% of all cities with populations over 150,000 inhabitants thought to have adopted climate adaptation plans.

At city level, the network contends, “adaptation is based on a crosscutting and multidisciplinary approach that fosters cooperation with surrounding municipalities, regions, and member states.” Furthermore, successful adaptation plans need to consider other areas of urban policy, from building standards and urban planning to “developing plans for protecting vulnerable citizens and infrastructures during extreme weather events.”

With this in mind, climate change adaptation must be mainstreamed across all EU policies such as the Common Agriculture Policy, the Water Framework Directive and Floods Directive, and the post-2020 EU Biodiversity Strategy, says the network.

As the EU looks to set a post-2020 climate adaptation strategy, it is clear that supporting the work of local strategies, and developing comprehensive sets of indicators to help cities monitor the progress of their adaptation plans, will be essential for the EU.

Being on the front line of climate changes, the need for cities to adapt is clear. This requires strategic choices to protect vital infrastructure, such as energy plants, drinking water and telecommunication. And this will also require significant investments and financial support to prevent damages of those critical infrastructures.

For this to happen EU funding will be “a vital resource for cities to finance adaptation planning and implementation,” according to the Eurocities position.

Furthermore, making climate adaptation practices a reality everywhere in Europe will require a host of innovative new cooperative approaches between the different levels of governments and different actors – not least because “in many cities, a large part of the territory is privately-owned”, meaning that implementing climate policy at the local level becomes increasingly complex.

Engaging citizens and business is therefore highlighted by the network as a key component of successful climate measures. To this end, the network foresees important roles for the EU and national level:

  • the European Commission can take a leading role as a strong facilitator of structured discussion forums and bottom-up and co-designed adaptation options, within the framework of the European Climate Pact.
  • Further, local voices need to be included in the creation of National Adaptation Plans.

Find out more by reading the full paper here: Eurocities statement on climate change adaptation


Louise Coffineau Policy Advisor (Water, Circular Economy, Climate)