16 January 2020

Integrating mitigation and adaptation for more effective climate action

When it comes to action on climate change, both mitigation and adaptation are essential to developing an effective climate policy.

The European Covenant of Mayors (CoM) supports cities to take action in both of these streams, and is increasingly encouraging city leaders and technical staff to integrate the two, make use of synergies, and avoid counterproductive measures (e.g. measures that help a city adapt to climate change, but make mitigation more difficult).

Obstacles to this integration persist, however. For example, mitigation and adaptation are often assigned to different departments within city governments, making collaboration essential and an added challenge.

Given the obstacles, how can cities integrate mitigation and adaptation? This is central to the CoM’s ambitions for supporting local climate action. It is addressed in the Covenant’s new Global Common Reporting Framework and the reporting template that CoM Signatories must fill in as part of their commitment to preparing and implementing a Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (SECAP). In addition, CoM is tapping into knowledge from organisations like ICLEI Europe, who are working on related projects that could further support signatories, such as the Compete4SECAP project.

Many CoM signatories have pre-existing Sustainable Energy Action Plans (SEAPs), which address emissions reduction. These now need to be upgraded to SECAPs that address both climate mitigation and adaptation. The Compete4SECAP project has developed a Quick Access Guide to help cities make this upgrade and take a step towards integration. As Eleanor Chapman from ICLEI Europe has said, “Integration has two key dimensions: firstly integrating working processes, because work on mitigation and adaptation is often divided between different departments and teams, and secondly, better understanding how actions taken in each stream affect one another.”

One city working towards horizontal integration across departments is ICLEI Member Ludwigsburg (Germany). Various city departments have a stake in both mitigation and adaptation actions, and integration across the two streams occurs at a project level. Moreover, they have developed an online tool called KSIS where employees procide information on the projects they are working on in order to have an overview of all measures and to monitor progress.

Another advantage of integrating work processes is that it makes it easier to identify how actions taken for mitigation interact with those taken for adaptation and vice-versa, ideally aiming to create synergies between them. Green infrastructure offers great potential for creating such synergies. The Regional Agency for Biodiversity in the Paris Region does this through measures such as combining riverbank restoration and sustainable modes of transport. This recovers natural areas while adapting to more extreme floods. In Austria, the consultancy Grünstattgrau incorporates green infrastructure into buildings to both mitigate emissions and adapt the buildings to more extreme outdoor conditions (e.g. heat, cold, noise, etc.).

Integrating mitigation and adaptation actions remains a major challenge for climate policy, but one that is critical to address at all levels of government. On 12 December 2019, the CoM brought together expert knowledge from the CoM, ICLEI Europe, Ludwigsburg, the Regional Agency for Biodiversity in the Paris Region, and the Austrian green infrastructure consultancy Grünstattgrau in a webinar that offered inspiration and practical advice to participants including Covenant Signatories and other cities looking to take on this work.

Watch the webinar recording here to learn more.

For more information and resources on mitigation and adaptation, view the CoM library here.