Europe's cities plan to combat mounting climate risk

LONDON Thu Jun 28, 2012 11:50am EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - European cities are planning to adapt to climate change as the risks become more severe, a report by UK-based emissions measurement organization the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and consultancy Accenture showed on Thursday.

Cities increasingly have to plan flood defenses, ways to manage water in times of drought, ensure new buildings provide natural cooling to occupants and adapt old buildings and infrastructure to become more energy efficient.

The report surveyed 22 European cities - including Amsterdam, Berlin, Istanbul, London, Manchester, Moscow, Paris and Rome - about their greenhouse gas emissions and climate change strategies.

The report comes less than a week after a United Nations' summit in Rio de Janeiro failed to define clear sustainable development goals and left many convinced that local governments and businesses will have to lead efforts to improve the environment.

The survey found that 17 European cities out of the 22 surveyed, or 77 percent, have completed or almost completed risk assessments to understand how climate change will affect them.

Eighteen of the 22 European cities said they face "significant risks" arising from climate change and 54 percent of them see these risks as "severe" or "very severe".

Due to these risks, cities are increasingly looking at developing adaptation plans. Fourteen European cities, or 64 percent of the 22 surveyed, already have an adaptation plan in place while two more are currently developing them.

"European cities are demonstrating leadership and best practice in managing climate change at the local level," said Conor Riffle, head of CDP's cities program.

"The report shows that other cities can benefit by implementing similar strategies, like annual measurement and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions."

EMISSIONS

Global carbon dioxide emissions, one of the main greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, hit a record high last year, according to the International Energy Agency.

Eighty-six percent of the European cities surveyed have set a city-wide emissions reduction target, compared to a global average of 70 percent of cities, CDP said.

Based on the latest data given by four cities to CDP, London's emissions fell 3.6 percent to 43.4 million metric tons (47.8 million tons) of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2010 from 2008 and Copenhagen's dropped 5.2 percent to around 2.5 million metric tons in 2010 from 2009.

Berlin's emissions rose 4.1 percent to over 20.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2008 from 2007 and Rotterdam's grew by 6 percent in 2010 to 29.6 million metric tons from 2009.

"Population growth, economic activity, weather patterns, and other factors that are outside the city government's direct control can make it difficult, if not impossible, to show steady reductions in emissions," the report said.

European cities are also becoming more aware of the economic opportunities from climate change. Thirteen of the cities surveyed, or 59 percent, think that tackling climate change will develop new business industries in their cities.

Some cities - like Helsinki and Berlin - are using voluntary agreements with the private sector to strengthen their cities' climate protection goals.

(Editing by William Hardy)

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