The state of the climate crisis demands that energy agencies work not only to mitigate its causes, but also to adapt to its effects. Climate adaptation means taking action to reduce the burden of climate change effects, both present and prospective. These actions can consist of environmental, sociological, or economic adaptations. These take place on all levels. Islands, being particularly vulnerable to climate change, must also work particularly hard to adjust.
To get a sense of the various manners in which islands respond to climate change, we spoke with the Cyprus Energy Agency (CEA), to find out what they are doing to help citizens in the east Mediterranean respond to – and prepare for – an ever-changing climate.
Read on to discover some of the CEA’s climate adaptation projects.
Land-use change, including soil sealing (the destruction or covering of the ground by an impermeable material) and urbanisation induce more frequent and more disastrous floods. This poses a threat to cities. The urban landscape, covered principally by tar and concrete, is not porous: the rain cannot seep into the ground and must therefore be diverted. Sewers and drainage systems were employed as the solution to this problem, but a changing climate and more heavy rain mean that this infrastructure cannot always cope. In light of this limitation, more and more cities are turning elsewhere.
Nature-based solutions are a popularising response to environmental challenges, including floods. These are defined by the European Commission as “solutions that are inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits, and help build resilience. Such solutions bring more, and more diverse, nature and natural features and processes into cities, landscapes and seascapes, through locally adapted, resource-efficient and systemic interventions.” In short, nature-based solutions (NbS) are not only effective responses to environmental problems; they also provide economic and social benefits, too.
However, while there is significant interest in the method, there is also a profound lack of technical expertise about NbS among stakeholders and local authorities. Furthermore, specific obstacles to the implementation of NbS are particularly rife in Cyprus: the responsibility for flood risk management is fragmented across different governing authorities; the authorities in question are unaccustomed to financing infrastructure other than drains, dams, etc.; there is no existing flood-specific insurance sector; and there is still a need to prove the efficacy of NbS in the area.
Nevertheless, all this may be changing. The Nature for Catchments Launchramp project aims to build NbS in flood-risk areas along Nicosia’s Pedieos river. The project is co-organised by the Cyprus Energy Agency (CEA) and other local actors. Together, they identify challenges related to flooding along the river, select and design NbS, and develop a long-term financing strategy to support their implementation.
To instigate this project, it was first necessary to complete a feasibility study of various nature-based solutions, and of their suitability to tackle the specific challenges pertinent along the Pedieos. The study concluded four locations on the river banks where nature-based solutions could be effective. The next step will be to present the findings to local stakeholders and the authorities responsible for flood management. By the end of the project in five years’ time, a pipeline of nature-based solutions should be outlined and ready for financing and development.
The CEA is currently in the design phase of a grant scheme that will fund adaptation projects at local community councils. The agency was awarded a EUR 2.9M budget under the Resilience and Recovery Fund (RRF) to design and run a grant scheme for local community councils which will fund adaptation actions.
The grant scheme will provide funds to implement adaptation actions, with an emphasis on NbS, to manage the climate hazards of extreme temperatures and floods. Indicative actions that will be eligible for funding include tree planting and green corridors; installation of permeable paving and bioswales; NbS along rivers for flood risk management, amongst others.
In Nicosia, squares made of concrete and surrounded by buildings are typically uncomfortable for visitors during the hot summer months. The high temperatures on Cyprus combine with the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect to demand a solution, and once again nature has a suggestion. Through the project SUSHI, CEA designed urban furniture with a canopy for plants to grow over and provide shade. These were installed in one of the capital’s squares.
The aim of the furniture was to provide a shady place for visitors to relax in the square, making the space more user-friendly during the hotter months of the year. The furniture was installed in 2020 and after 2 years CEA learned the following lessons: the importance of maintenance of such actions by the local municipalities is vital. If the local municipality does not maintain the plants and the urban furniture, then these will not be able to deliver on their stated aims. As greenery to combat the urban heat island effect is gaining prominence, local authorities will have to augment their parks services, as their duties will increase. This is an aspect that is not often discussed, which endangers the long-term success of urban greenery as an adaptation measure.
Through another project, pilots were implemented to demonstrate the use of NbS to support urban biodiversity in the city of Nicosia. In two municipalities (Strovolos and Lakatamia), pollinator gardens were planted in dedicated areas within parks, in order to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators and the types of plants that citizens can plant to encourage their flourishing within their own gardens. As part of this project, a guide for implementing NbS in households was prepared. A corresponding guide was also prepared for local authorities (both guides were prepared in the Greek language).
Through the Go Green project, the CEA has been awarded funding to design and install a green roof, as well as PV solar panels. This project is ongoing, and the agency is currently in the design and procurement phase.
The CEA joined forces with the North-West Croatia Regional Energy Agency (REGEA), and IRE Liguria to develop and implement a systemic process to transform Energy Agencies into Energy and Climate Agencies.
Climate adaptation is a crucial aspect of the green transition. Check out FEDARENE’s Climate Adaptation Working Group to find out more about our work on this important topic. Find all our work on islands specifically, via the Islands & Rural Communities Working Group.