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Back in 2009, I was among the first members of the evaluation team of the European Green Capital Award (EGCA), when it was initiated by the European Commission. While I was happy to see the attention of the European Commission for the urban environment, at a time, when this issue was hardly handled at the European level, I also had some doubts: Does it make sense to add another award? There are many city rankings going on and you hear all over the place: “the best city is …”, “the most livable city is …”. What value will the EGCA provide to cities? Will there at all be enough cities applying for an award for which they do not get any price money but would commit to a year full of communication actions and events?
“Adaptation problem recognised. Let’s get started with adaptation! We take a guidance tool and follow it… But oops...!? There are incredible many guidance tools! Which one is actually the best
for us? How can we find out? We want to make a clever choice of course.” Does that situation sound somehow familiar to you?
Your city in 2040: How will you, your friends and neighbours live given all these upcoming changes in demography, lifestyle, technology, climate …? How will life look like in more than 20 years? What will be the headlines in the local news? These were the questions I asked young citizens at the age of 18-23 years in two visioning workshops, which I organised in the city of Hofheim am Taunus in Germany. The feedback surprised me. First, there did not come up any ideas about the future!? These guys have rarely thought about it yet. Next, rather dark visions came up.
Or is there a way for towns and rural municipalities too?
It was, when I attended a conference on climate change adaptation in Hessen, one of the German Federal States, that learned about inspiring activities and progress here at my current place of living. Even specific funding for implementing of adaptation action is available. While strolling around in the sun at lunch break, I came to chat with a colleague from a tiny municipality. She told me that it sounds all very well - the activities presented and the availability of funding. But how can you benefit from these when you are small, do not know how to start, where to get the necessary data and knowledge for to start even developing a funding application? How can they, left with no adaptation capacities but with regular flooding problems, get on?
How often have I heard the message from cities and other stakeholders “We would like to act, but we do not have the financial resources to do climate change adaptation action”? I cannot count it, but it pops up again and again.
Do you really need money to start action?
What would you do with a bunch of money suddenly dropping on your table? Would you know, where and how to invest that best? Do citizens, politicians and other stakeholder go along with your ideas? ...
I was just sitting together with a colleague of the planning department of a smaller city in Hessen Germany. It is quite well positioned in terms of sustainability, but when I asked how they are prepared for climate change impacts…
‘?! ehmmm?!… Yes, of course, we have green areas and try to keep these. For flood protection, the regional government is rather responsible.’
No, there was not any word about climate change and possible impacts in the latest version of the city planning document or somewhere else. And it was just the night before that the neighbour municipality was hit by a tremendous thunderstorm leading to flooding of many basements and falling of many trees. That didn’t seem to make any impact on the perception of climate impacts.
Leegebruch is a small place with 6500 inhabitants close to Berlin, a neighbour village of my hometown that I passed frequently as a child. There was nothing special about the place, but suddenly I find it in many German newspapers. What happened? On 29 June up to 250 litres per square meter of rainwater poured down over Berlin and its surroundings. The area of Leegebruch was hit particular hard. In addition, it suffered much longer from flooding than other towns and villages nearby. Days later many parts were still under water. What was the reason?
Last week, I took a break from adaptation work. J I enjoyed four days of rock festival in Southern Sweden. Days with great music, some 33 000 mostly nice people and luck with having lots of sunshine despite the usual low Swedish summer temperatures. But then on the way back, we got stacked in the little town. The small train station was packed with folks form many nations, lots of baggage, but the train didn't arrive. It was postponed by 10 minutes, then 15, 20 and so. Nothing moved. We got to know that the last piece to our station was closed until further notice. Strangely, the train from the opposite direction was neither allowed to come up, although that part wasn't blocked. So what? ...
… and sometimes, adaptation to climate might not even have been the purpose. While cycling today to our neighbouring municipality, I made these pictures. Areas along the streets and a private garden flourish wonderfully with wild and semi-wild flowers. Thereby, they allow excessive rainwater to drain into the ground. The extensive green roof on the garage can also store water and delay its discharge if needed. Bees and other insects were humming around…
I am just back from another Open European Day at the Resilient Cities conference in Bonn. Already for the fourth time, this became a great interactive event - and brand, I would say. Five years ago, we designed it as a day in which European cities could talk to their colleagues in other cities and explore their challenges and solutions to deal with climate change impacts. The event is different from many other conferences of its kind. It lives from the lively interaction of its participants. Very special: the day does not entail any presentation but lots of workshops, interactive sessions and time for free exchange and networking. As one of the initiators of this event series, I was overwhelmed by the great dedication of the participants and the appreciation they expressed for having that helpful event. It seems that this day really fills a niche in the broader adaptation discussion in Europe. Still, there is one thing that puzzles me…
It was just last weekend that I discussed with my husband, which fruit trees we want to grow in our new garden. The weather was so nicely warm over the last weeks. Most lunch breaks, I spent outside on the balcony. The trees were covered over and over with blossoms. It seemed to be the perfect time to discuss the choice of apple, plum and cherry trees we want to plant. And then, I came and said that these trees should also be resistant against freeze. I think, my husband got quite irritated, now that we moved to the part of Germany that will hottest in the country.
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Strong cities in a changing climate
Babenhäuser Str. 9 B - 63128 Dietzenbach - Germany
phone: +49 6074 72 97 587, email: contact(at)birgitgeorgi.eu