Over the past few years, evidence of climate change and its impacts on different socio-economic sectors and natural systems has accumulated in all regions of the planet.
The impacts of climate change are affecting and affecting all cities and towns in Europe but with regional and local differences. Projections of future climate developments indicate that while global efforts to reduce emissions are effective, the effects of climate change will be felt for decades.
For this reason, adaptation to climate change is a necessary strategy at all scales. It is necessary to complement the emission reduction efforts that cause it.
Projections indicate that climate change will increase climate-related risks for both natural, urban and human systems. Some of these risks will be limited to a particular sector or region, and others will have cascading effects. To a lesser extent, projected climate change also points to some potential benefits.
Various extreme phenomena associated with weather conditions, such as heat waves, droughts, torrential rains or fires – which cause serious social and environmental impacts in our country – will increase their frequency or intensity as a result of climate change. In this sense, adaptation is an essential response to avoid a growing impact on the economy and society.
Gradually the adaptation is incorporated into the planning processes, being even more limited the application of responses. These adaptation possibilities can be: sectoral (relative to a specific sector), multi-sectoral (relative to two or more sectors together), regional, cross-cutting or horizontal (they serve to improve overall adaptation).
Adaptation in Spain, Portugal and the EU
In April 2013, the European Climate Change Adaptation Strategy was adopted in the European Union, which lays the foundations and principles of Community policy on adaptation.
This Strategy defines three key objectives:
- Promote climate change adaptation actions in Member States and provide funds to help them develop their adaptation capabilities and take action. It also supports adaptation in cities through the Initiative of the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.
- Promote adaptation in key vulnerable sectors such as agriculture, fisheries or cohesion policy, ensuring that European infrastructures are more resilient and promoting the use of insurance against both natural and human origin disasters.
- Facilitate all actors involved in informed decision-making through increased research programmes and the collection and exchange of climate change adaptation information through the European climate change adaptation platform as a ‘one-stop shop’ (Climate-Adapt);
A growing number of European Union member countries have adopted a national adaptation strategy and several of them have developed and are implementing action plans.
Adaptation at the national level
As a result of its high vulnerability, impact assessment and climate change adaptation measures in Spain is a priority objective.
Spain has been one of the first European countries to develop an adaptation policy, materialized in 2006 with the approval of the National Climate Change Adaptation Plan (PNACC) and in response to the Preliminary Impact Assessment in Spain by effect of climate change carried out in 2005.
The NAP has since been developed through Work Programmes and closely aligned with the main instruments and elements adopted in the European context. The third work programme 2014-2020 is currently being developed.
In this sense, the National Adaptation Plan is the general framework of reference for activities of impact assessment, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change and provides the overall structure where the different assessments of sectors, systems and regions fit.
In turn, the role of the Spanish Climate Change Office is to promote the generation of data, tools and information relevant to the development of each impact assessment and facilitate participatory processes.
However, adaptation to climate change in our country is a very complex area of work, in which the public and private dimension converge, where there are competences, responsibilities and need for coordination at all administrative levels – local, regional, national and European – and where many sectors and agents interact.
Adaptation to climate change in education and social services centres
Europe’s cities and towns absorb all public centres for education and social services. These buildings are occupied by students, education and social services professionals and citizens in general. Students, teachers, directors and managers of the centres, the elderly, disabled people, social services technicians and maintenance staff regularly occupy these centers between 70-75% of their time during their daily day.
The vulnerability to climate change of these buildings, located in regions and municipalities of Spain and Portugal, is a consequence of the constructive typology of these buildings and the high temperatures that are reached within them between the months of May to October. Part of the problem of heating these buildings can be attributed to the architecture of these buildings and to the materials used during their construction. In Spain and Portugal, many of the education and social services centres were built prior to the basic regulations of thermal conditions (Royal Decree 2429/79 of 6 July, which approves the Basic Building Standard NBE-CT-79, on Thermal Conditions in Buildings).
Climate Change puts pressure on our “hard” infrastructures, as is the case with these public education and social services buildings, but also on “soft” ones, such as our health and environmental comfort systems. This is very obvious during heat waves where temperatures are reached inside these buildings above 32oC during the months of May to October, causing serious health problems and thermal stress for children, the elderly and disabled people, considered risk groups.
In the sense, the framework of a Local Strategy for Adaptation to the Effects of Climate Change on these buildings should generate governance tools between different regional and local administrations with responsibilities in education and social welfare, which allows to innovate and rehabilitate these centers by implementing nature-based solutions that allow to respond to periods of potential overheating, minimizing unwanted heat gains during the day and night.