The effects of climate change are omnipresent, be it in the form of direct experience with heat waves or heavy rainfall or in connection with the reporting of catastrophic events such as the flood disaster in Germany in 2021, in which many people lost their lives and loved ones.
Climate protection and climate adaptation are two sides of the same central challenge. They must be implemented in an integrated, structured, and targeted manner to stop global warming without further delay and at the same time protect people from the consequences of climate change.
As it is the main task of municipalities and regions to provide services of general interest and to protect citizens and the local economy from damage, they are looking for ways to reduce the impact of such extreme weather events.
Such measures cannot be implemented as an isolated bundle of measures to achieve resilience but must be developed in a participatory process and implemented and reviewed in a process-oriented manner, integrated with other measures, e.g. in the field of climate protection. Only in this way risks can be clearly identified and continuously minimised.
This was the background to developing and establishing the European Climate Adaptation Award (ECA) in Germany. The ECA is a quality management and certification programme for municipalities to adapt to climate change. The ECA is available to municipalities in Germany and serves to promote and firmly anchor climate adaptation activities in administrative action.
The programme consists of three components: the instruments, the actors, and the process.
A catalogue of measures that contains all the measures required to exploit the municipal adaptation potential is provided to the ECA municipalities. These individual measures are assigned to six superordinate areas of action in which the cities and municipalities can become active. All fields of action of the German Adaptation Strategy are considered – from the transport and water sector to the health sector, agriculture, and forestry.
With the help of the ECA catalogue of measures, suitable adaptation measures are jointly planned with all actors in the municipality. For this purpose, a climate adaptation policy programme of activities is drawn up, which is updated annually. It includes an overview of the measures that the municipality would like to implement in the coming years, including the expected costs, the planned duration, responsible experts, and necessary stakeholders. The official endorsement of the programme of activities by the political authorities guarantees supports and planning security.
Climate change adaptation is a cross-cutting issue that covers most of the different sectors within a municipality. To consider the expertise and needs of all areas, all relevant actors of a municipality come together in an interdisciplinary climate team. Where appropriate, external actors should also be involved in the climate adaptation process. This ensures that a coherent approach is taken with other sectors, such as climate protection, and that counterproductive measures are avoided.
The team members are supported by a process-accompanying ECA-consultancy and a competent network of experts. At the end of each process cycle, an accredited auditor reviews the progress made in climate adaptation.
The European Climate Adaptation Award uses a quality management system and certification process in which measures are continuously planned, implemented, and reviewed: Climate impact and actual analysis, Climate Adaptation Policy Programme of Activities, project implementation as well as review, certification and awarding represent the steps of the ECA process.
The process steps are repeated in regular cycles to firmly anchor the adaptation activities in the municipal work and to enable a continuous development process.
The process-oriented proceeding in connection with the other components of the scheme assures that adaptation to climate change is implemented in a consistent and continuous way, which includes all relevant actors of the municipalities and allows to build on a proven canon of measures. This saves resources and is paving the way to sustainable resilience in the participating municipalities.