Topic of the climate crisis and its consequences has been present in public debate for a long time. While the climate has naturally changed over centuries (and geological eras), scientific evidence clearly points out that in the last 150 years, since the beginning of the industrial revolution, humans have significantly contributed to the rapid pace of these changes, deepening their negative effects.
In 2015, under the Paris Agreement, the governments of nearly 200 countries set a clear goal: "by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5°C." However, reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicate that this ambitious goal may not be achieved, and the 1.5°C threshold could be surpassed as early as 2030. This means that we must learn to adapt to a changing climate today.
Cities, due to their characteristics and the way they change the natural landscape, are highly vulnerable to experiencing the negative impacts of climate change. At the same time, they can significantly contribute to mitigating these changes. According to UN data, cities consume nearly 80% of the energy produced and are responsible for over 60% of greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, urbanization is still progressing. The UN predicts that within the next 30 years, the percentage of Europeans living in cities will increase from the current 74% to 83%.
As cities develop, there is a major transformation of the natural landscape into an anthropogenic landscape, with built structures and infrastructure as key elements. Their emergence increases the share of impermeable surfaces at the expense of green areas, accompanied by a transformation of the natural water cycle. Our cities lose the ability to retain water, resulting in an increased frequency and intensity of so-called flash floods even during light rainfall, while intensifying the occurrence of droughts during rainless periods. The presence of a large amount of concrete surfaces also contributes to local air temperature rise in city centers compared to suburban areas – this phenomenon is known as the urban heat island effect.
As a result, vegetation quality in cities is declining, functioning less effectively than in suburban areas, with limited flowering and fruiting, often gradually withering. This situation is not improved by the frequent air pollution in cities, as well as poorly planned maintenance practices, such as intensified mowing and trimming.
Why is the issue of urban greenery so crucial? Because it provides us with numerous ecosystem services, and its presence brings us many benefits – not only those related to aesthetics. Vegetation in the city purifies the air we breathe and helps reduce temperature as well as capture rainfall. Therefore, it supports us in effectively adapting our cities to climate change. This is particularly crucial since life in cities is not easy. Just look at the statistics: according to information published by the C40Cities organization, in less than 30 years, over 1.6 billion people living in the world's thousand largest cities will be exposed to regular, extreme heatwaves, equivalent to over 40% of the current urban population.
Cities today face enormous challenges. Climate change and the negative effects of advancing urbanization overlap, influencing everyone's lives. The need for the effective implementation of European adaptation strategies and the growing grassroots pressure resulting from increasing awareness and social expectations require cities to make quick and accurate decisions regarding efficient adaptive actions.
Among the urban environmental challenges, five main problems can be distinguished, the solution of which is crucial for the effective adaptation of cities to a changing climate:
As part of the LIFECOOLCITY project, we will analyze the current state of the mentioned environmental challenges to support the management of blue-green infrastructure (BGI) in 10,000 cities in the European Union. This will be addressed by implementing innovative systems that utilize Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing (satellite and aerial imagery). The goal is to enhance the adaptive capacity of cities to the effects of anthropogenic climate change and bring them closer to the model of smart cities of the future.
On January 31, 2023, a meeting was held to mark the launch of the LIFECOOLCITY project - use of remote sensing for management of blue-green infrastructure in the process of city adaptation to climate change.
It was the first opportunity for all partners - both from Poland and Germany - to meet face-to-face and talk about the challenges ahead, plan the implementation of individual activities and get to know each other better. In a workshop atmosphere, the participants discussed, among other things, a detailed work plan for the coming months, learned about the guidelines for reporting the effects of their activities, and decided on the visual identity of the project.
The meeting was attended by representatives of all partners:
With the beginning of the year, the LIFECOOLCITY project (Use of remote sensing for management of blue-green infrastructure in the process of city adaptation to climate change) was launched. The purpose of the project's activities is to enhance the adaptive capacity of cities to the effects of anthropogenic climate change and bring them closer to the model of smart cities of the future.
The consortium's actions will focus on supporting the management of blue-green infrastructure (BGI) in 10,000 cities in the European Union by implementing innovative systems that utilize Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing (satellite and aerial imagery).
The first city for which a BGI reconstruction concept will be developed based on the project's products will be Wrocław, Poland.
The project is being jointly implemented by seven organizations:
The project activities are planned for the years 2023-2029.