Citizens to have their say in climate IMPETUS project

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There is a significant opportunity to better engage citizens in climate change adaptation initiatives, according to initial results of a survey by the EU-funded IMPETUS project. Around 400 people in 7 European countries shared knowledge, concerns and ideas about climate change and its impacts in regional surveys that kicked-off the project’s activities to engage with citizens and other stakeholders. With a PhD research position supporting this work, lessons being learned from other projects and around 600 identified stakeholders to work with, stakeholder engagement will be a significant feature of IMPETUS. Partners are already planning workshops and other ways to involve members of the public, researchers, businesses, environmental groups, industry, media, civil society groups and others in co-creating climate change solutions, ensuring that regional economic, social, policy and cultural factors are taken into consideration.

Aiming for innovative solutions that build resilience to climate change and contribute to locally meaningful impacts, IMPETUS activities focus on case study sites in 7 bioclimatic regions: ‘Continental’ in Berlin metropolitan area, Germany; ‘Coastal’ in Catalonia, Spain; ‘Mediterranean’ in Athens and wider Attica, Greece; ‘Atlantic’ in the Dutch provinces of Zeeland and Rijnmond; ‘Arctic’ in Troms and Finnmark, Norway; ‘Boreal’ in Zemgale region, Latvia; and ‘Mountains’ in the Italian Alpine region of Valle dei Laghi. Partner organisations in these regions released the project survey in local languages in April 2022. They will analyse the responses during the summer as the basis for planning diverse engagement activities.

Initial results and implications

Initial results showed that 82% of the survey respondents said that climate change is important to them personally or for their work. The respondents included a mixture of expert stakeholders and non-expert citizens. Many judged themselves to be knowledgeable in areas such as regional planning related to climate change, analysis of vulnerability and risks (social, natural, economic, infrastructure), and warning systems. However, the following knowledge gap appeared: 

45% of IMPETUS survey respondents were not aware
of climate change adaptation initiatives already taking place in their area

(compared to 55% who said such initiatives were known to them)

These findings imply that IMPETUS and other climate change projects have a real opportunity to fill this knowledge gap and to engage with a sizeable set of interested stakeholders on the co-creation of climate change resilience solutions at local level, with tangible outputs and effects.

IMAGES: Left – the IMPETUS stakeholder engagement and co-creation team meeting in May 2022; Right – the Berlin regional team invitation to “Get involved!”

Learning and planning

Lisa Andrews of KWR Water Research Institute coordinates IMPETUS work on stakeholder engagement and co-creation. She will analyse the survey results and develop engagement activity plans with regional partners, whose success she will track throughout the course of this complex project as part of a doctoral research project at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

“I am excited to jump back into academia with a research topic close to my heart, making very important connections between science and practice in the water and climate sectors. My PhD is part of the climate IMPETUS project, and we are working closely with the case study sites to deliver impactful climate change solutions through effective stakeholder engagement and knowledge co-creation.”

Lisa Andrews, KWR, IMPETUS project stakeholder engagement and co-creation lead

An estimated 600 stakeholders were identified through the survey as targets for future engagement efforts. A key result of the regional surveys and stakeholder identification and analysis will be to better understand how IMPETUS solutions fit into the network of existing climate change initiatives, so partners can engage with them too. All results will be shared with regional partners and stakeholders as soon as possible. 

The Dutch IMPETUS partners are already organising regional workshops in July and September this year, and partners around the other case study sites have been busy too, sharing information about IMPETUS through local events and communication activities. Information is also flowing into IMPETUS, which is building up its knowledge of citizen engagement best practices and lessons learned from other EU-funded projects, for example by participating in a ‘Scalable Cities’ conference for smart cities projects in early June. 

Find out more

Anyone who is interested in following or participating in IMPETUS activities in its 7 case study regions is welcome to get involved and can:

With a 14.8 million euro budget, IMPETUS is a 4-year programme to accelerate Europe’s response to climate change. IMPETUS has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101037084, funded in the Green Deal call.

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High temperatures

Record-breaking summertime temperatures have been recorded in the Netherlands in recent years. With global temperatures rising, such extreme weather events will occur more often, and for longer periods. Prolonged high temperatures, with warm nights as well as hot days, can cause heat stress* and related health issues, particularly among city populations. 

*Heat stress occurs when the human body cannot get rid of excess heat and can impact wellbeing through conditions such as heat stroke, exhaustion, cramps and rashes.

"We want to enable municipality decision makers who are working on spatial developments to identify heat stress 'hot spots' and cool areas, analyse the future effects of climate change, and model the effect of different heat stress-reducing measures. The tool must provide them with an easy starting point to integrate heat stress risks in their projects."

Issue

Despite the cooling effect of the sea in the region of Zeeland, the growing risk of heat stress has become a concern.

Elderly and other vulnerable people are more impacted by the effects of prolonged heat, which can cause headaches, dizziness, insomnia and other health issues – even death. Excess temperatures also affect general comfort and liveability of cities. Water quality can be reduced, both for drinking and swimming, and infrastructure can be affected. Buildings and concrete surfaces trap heat, potentially leading to damage, and release it during the night, keeping temperatures warm.

During heat waves, it is important that everyone has access to a cool and comfortable place. Appropriate spatial planning can help to decrease and deal with heat stress. Environmental factors like water bodies, trees, and shade have a major impact on stress caused by high temperatures. Therefore, planting trees, removing concrete surfaces, creating green roofs and cool spaces can improve our comfort and health. The IMPETUS Atlantic team is developing a digital tool to support regional decision making for city planning to address these needs.

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Flood risk

By 2050, sea-level within this region is predicted to rise by 15-40 cm, with more frequent extreme weather and more (severe) storms triggered by climate change. These changes will exacerbate the natural risk of flooding in the IMPETUS ‘Atlantic’ region, because it is surrounded by rivers and the sea, and is below sea level.

*Risk takes into account two aspects; the chance that an event will occur and the negative impact of such an event once it occurs. When there is a low chance that an event will occur, but its impacts are huge, the risk is still significant.

“In the Netherlands, an extensive system of dikes protects us against sea and river flooding. We have always put our faith in this defence and focused almost solely on flood prevention. However, pressure on our system will increase with climate change and rising sea levels. To adapt and maintain a safe living environment, we should develop other safety measures, like more robust spatial planning and contingency plans."

Issue

Rotterdam city, is located in Rijnmond – ‘mouth of the Rhine’. The Rhine river flows through this densely populated area and characterises the region. Protections such as sea dikes and storm surge barriers have been constructed to protect the region, but flooding still occurs.

People living in the city are accustomed to seeing smaller floods. The changing climate affects the interplay between rainfall, river levels and sea storms, increasing the flooding risk. Water levels could rise by a few metres, even in populated areas, with potentially massive impacts. 

Mitigation measures such as storm surge barriers reduce the chance that high water reaches the city, but to minimise the impact of floods when they do occur, adaptation strategies are also needed. A city that can adapt to be safe from floods must be carefully designed. How best to design such an adaptive city?

Critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and evacuation routes, must be accessible at all times. Planning how to best protect them, homes and lives is complex. Flood water behaves in a complex way and flood risks show strong spatial variations. The IMPETUS Atlantic team is developing a digital tool to support regional decision making for adaptive city planning. 

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Energy and waste water

To become climate-neutral by 2050, climate mitigation* efforts are crucial in our strategy for how to deal with climate change. Reducing our energy consumption is a significant mitigation step. In the Netherlands, 15% of energy is consumed in the Rijnmond area around the port of Rotterdam, in large part by a major petrochemical industry cluster.

*Climate mitigation encompasses measures such as technologies, processes, or practices that reduce carbon emissions or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.

Issue

The Rotterdam port petrochemical industry cluster is Europe’s largest. It consumes 70% of the Rijnmond region’s energy. A large part of this energy is wasted (64%, 203 petajoules). More than half of that energy is lost with wastewater. In addition, most energy processes within these industries rely on fossil fuels, which has a significant impact on the climate.

Energy use must be minimised and fossil fuels should be replaced by renewable sources if climate change is to be mitigated. Electrification of processes opens up the possibility to use more renewable energy and can greatly impact decarbonisation. Recovering wasted heat would significantly reduce energy consumption and is a first step towards a more circular industry. 

Supporting industries in a transition towards climate-neutrality depends on identifying how best to reduce their carbon footprint without sacrificing production or performance. The IMPETUS Atlantic team is creating a digital tool that supports decision making about pathways towards an effective energy transition for EU industry.