A recent study, supported by the EU funded project RAMSES (Reconciling Adaptation, Mitigation and Sustainable dEvelopment for citieS) assessed the vulnerability of European cities to climate change.
The study is the result of an indicator-based vulnerability assessment (IBVA) for 571 European cities. The assessment used the following set of indicators to assess urban vulnerabilities to climate stressors and their consequences: heatwaves on human health, drought on water planning and the socio-economic impact of flooding.
Results shed light on the key challenges that specific groups of European cities face in order to better deal with the expected impacts of climate change. You can find some of the findings summarised below:
- Cities that showed higher vulnerability to heatwaves were predominantly located in the central areas of the EU and in the southern regions of new Member States and the Baltic republics. This was in part linked to elderly populations, higher pollution levels and small dwelling size, which, in combination, increase the urban sensitivity to heatwaves.
- Some European cities, like Brussels, Ludwigshafen am Rhein and Marseille, are more vulnerable to droughts but the spatial distribution pattern is not clear. Overall higher droughts vulnerabilities are explained by comparatively less diversified economies, growing populations and less efficient water-management systems (i.e. higher resource consumption at greater water costs).
- Flooding vulnerabilities were also found across Europe, with the Mediterranean countries, Bohemian and Danubian regions showing the highest degree of vulnerability.
- The factors influencing flooding vulnerability included socio-economic conditions (e.g. income levels and employment rates), physical features, such as the extent of soil sealing and the awareness of citizens and the commitment to adaption of the cities’ governing institutions.
- For coastal flooding, cities over the Atlantic coasts, western Mediterranean and Baltic showed higher vulnerability than the Italian Peninsula, the UK and the Scandinavian countries, which were shown to have a higher capacity to adapt, as well as higher awareness and commitment to addressing coastal flooding.
Compared to other areas of risk, vulnerability is most directly linked to social conditions, therefore this could lead to policy interventions addressing both urban resilience and socioeconomic issues.
According to the researchers, these findings should help to advance in the understanding of urban risks to climate change and to develop effective EU policies for urban adaptation. Thanks to the consistency of the definition and the indicators used, the results can be used to compare European cities.
- Read more on the study in the Science for Environment Policy related issue.