Could nature-based solutions help build climate change resilience for cities in Europe?

04 June 2024 by Sandra Martin
blog author

​​Actions taken by European cities against climate change have been highlighted in a new environmental report with a strong focus on nature-based solutions (NbS).

The European Environment Agency (EEA) has published an overview of urban adaptation in Europe, to assess how cities respond to increasing climate risks and the actions they need to take.

The Urban Adaptation in Europe report underscores the urgent need to adapt European cities to climate change and provide a rich source of information to support climate adaptation policies across Europe, from EU to municipal level.

Nature-based solutions (cost-effective solutions inspired and supported by nature) are included in 91 per cent of local adaptation plans analysed in the report, which are effective for reducing pollution, creating space for recreation, cooling and water retention in cities.

The report noted the necessity of combining NbS with other actions (including physical infrastructure) due to the amount of anticipated climate change impacts and various components should be taken into consideration. This includes competition for space and the technical capacity surrounding implementation.

According to the report, 26.6 per cent of actions reported by cities to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) in 2022 were related to NbS, with 84 per cent using ‘green options’ such as urban farming and just 15 per cent focused on blue options (the presence of water in a city).

With most Europeans living in urban areas, it is paramount that cities strive to protect and improve the resilience of their societies against the increasing impacts of climate change, by implementing adaptation actions and assessing specific vulnerabilities.

Specific adaptation actions deemed effective include early-warning systems, economic incentives and insurance, information campaigns and urban planning/building codes (the latter for a higher quality outcome). Adaptation opportunities include urban agriculture, protecting cultural heritage and more liveable public spaces.

The study focuses on floods, heatwaves and other impacts increasingly threatening cities across Europe, and investment required for urban societal resilience is also highlighted in the report.

The EEA says the conditions necessary to enable such successful adaptation includes good governance, sustained political commitment, engagement from local communities, knowledge-based decision making and best practice from other cities.

In March, the  EEA published the first ever European climate risk assessment,  which showed densely-populated, urban areas are at particular risk from heatwaves and extreme precipitation.

Sandra Martin, Research Consultant – Acre EMEA, said: “From a workforce perspective, there's a burgeoning demand for professionals equipped with not only the scientific expertise to implement these nature-based solutions but also the interpersonal skills necessary to foster organizational engagement.

“This trend underscores the interdisciplinary nature of modern ecological challenges and the importance of holistic education that bridges gaps between the science, culture, and community involvement.

“By regenerating beautiful environments that support local ecosystems, both in and outside our cities and, metaphorically, within and outside of work landscapes; we can ensure the longevity of nature-based solutions helping us.”