"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark ..."?

Ok. Actually, today I‘m talking about Germany. Especially, after a hot summer like the last one and a seemingly endless drought in many parts of the country, it seems clear to me that we all have to do something for climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation. Only then, we can maintain the quality of life and economic power in our cities, towns and regions. Climate change mitigation and adaptation are the foundations of general public services which the state and municipalities must guarantee; but ...

 

While more and more people are becoming aware that we urgently have to act on our climate and its current and future impacts, often, the road to action is still long. Large cities and other stakeholders often have their own climate change adaptation strategy, but in particular smaller ones mostly see the challenges and barriers: lacking staff capacities, time and resources, other things are more important at the moment, etc. These arguments may be justified or partly just a personal perception - after all, a few smaller municipalities demonstrate that climate change mitigation and adaptation are indeed possible. However, one argument, which I have only been told behind closed doors, shocks me.

We cannot spend money in areas that are not required by legislation

"We cannot invest in climate change adaptation, because we are in fiscal consolidation. In this situation, we cannot spend money in areas that are not required by legislation ". How crazy is that? The municipalities in the federal state of Hessen, which are under the ‘municipal protection shield’ (municipalities with high financial debts can get waived one third of their debt from the state, if they commit themselves to achieve a balanced budget within a defined period), are even threatened with sanctions, such as the repayment of money if they do not reach their savings goals. Is this a naive assessment of the situation? Is it a good idea to spend money on dealing with damage caused by extreme weather events and climate change impacts instead of preventing the damages - often at a lower cost? In addition, I see an issue in the fact that affected municipalities do not even begin to think about the topic, even though many possible adaptation measures do not require tangible investments. They miss the opportunity to integrate climate change adaptation into all planning decisions and planning guidelines and to advise residents and companies on their opportunities to act. This would allow the municipality to set a decisive course for the future and help to avoid or at least reduce damage losses. 

 

Making municipal climate change adaptation as a compulsory task alone is no guarantee for effective adaptation. Many of the aforementioned obstacles are real and must be considered as such but I believe they can be overcome. However, making it statutory would support staff that is dedicated to adaptation needs considerably; thus, allowing them to introduce measures ensuring general public services for people and businesses in the long term before any more costs arise and adaptation measures become even more expensive.

 

 

This is my personal opinion, but I am really interested to know what you think about the subject. Do you face similar challenges in your country? Do you know of positive examples? I would really appreciate any feedback.