Myth 4: The state and local authorities must protect citizens and businesses from the effects of climate change

Image: Shutterstock, gualtiero boffi
Image: Shutterstock, gualtiero boffi

Can we simply demand help and sit back?


It's true, the state and local authorities should have taken more timely measures to prevent or mitigate the devastating effects of recent floods in southern Germany, the prolonged Weser floods at the beginning of 2024, the catastrophic flood in the Ahr Valley in 2021, or the several thousand deaths per year due to heatwaves(?) When heavy rains cause water to spray from gullies, flooding streets, squares, cellars, and underground car parks, public resentment is understandable. People often claim that local authorities have failed in their duty to protect citizens and businesses. But is this the full picture?

Not quite. While local authorities and public administrations have significant scope for action, their abilities are ultimately limited. They can only implement infrastructure on municipal property, yet climate risks do not respect property boundaries. Water flows according to terrain, gravity, and established paths. Heat waves affect entire cities and regions, and urban heat islands depend on the degree of surface sealing and greening, regardless of property lines. Our cities are a patchwork of surfaces, requiring collective responsibility.


For companies, this means embracing double materiality, as defined in the new EU sustainability reporting obligation (CSRD):


1. Protecting Economic Activity Against Climate Risks: Companies should take their own precautions, such as securing basement entrances and underground car parks with higher entrance levels, protecting or relocating critical infrastructure (like servers, electrics, and cooling technology) to higher floors, and greening areas and buildings to reduce heat.


2. Minimising the Impact on the Neighborhood and others: Companies should address the effects of their heavily sealed exterior surfaces and large roofs, which can cause water runoff into surrounding areas during heavy rains and increase heating of premises, affecting neighboring areas. They should also ensure their buildings and production facilities do not hinder air exchange.



In conclusion: 

Not only state and local authorities need to act, but also citizens, companies, and other private stakeholders. Only joint action will be effective and efficient.


More myths: 


#1: More climate adaptation action? We have already taken energy-saving measures, haven't we?

#2: If we can’t stop climate change, then all climate change mitigation action is all for nothing, and we should focus on climate change adaptation.  

#3 We will not really be affected by the consequences of climate change(?)



  • The state and local authorities must protect citizens and businesses from climate change impacts
  • Climate change adaptation is expensive. We can’t afford it right now
  • We have other priorities at the moment and can still adapt to climate change later on.
  • We have created flowering meadows and planted trees. We have taken precautions.
  • The consequences of climate change will lead to heavy burdens and restrictions.