After decades of intense urbanisation, Athens is pioneering the design of green, nature-based infrastructure to cool the city and counter climate change.
The urban fabric of Athens is made up of dense constructions that cover 80% of the city’s surface. All that asphalt and concrete retains the heat during the extended heatwaves to which the city is increasingly exposed. These urban heat islands in the city centre can be more than 10°C warmer than the suburbs. But asphalt and concrete are not just a liability when the weather’s hot. They also stop water seeping away into the ground during rain storms. The result: frequent local floods.
The goal of the project is to create at least 25% more green areas and to introduce eight different climate adaptation measures that will include, among many others, trees, bushes, and birdhouses in some of them, explains Stefanie Lindenberg, the European Investment Bank’s Natural Capital Facility Coordinator.
“Green corridors are extremely important for biodiversity because they allow for species and air masses to move,” says Lindenberg, “not to mention that they offer a nice setting for people to move as well. Besides, a condition that has been placed on the consultancy firm conducting the assessment of the sub-projects is to engage with the citizens so as to design these schemes accordingly.”
The project is intended to support Athens’s “2030 Resilience Strategy,” which was drawn up in 2017. The main part of the loan will finance energy upgrades and earthquake fortification of municipal buildings, as well as development and waste management initiatives.
The measures will significantly lower temperatures, retain and slow down water, clean the air and promote biodiversity, as well as creating social equity by changing real estate values in disadvantaged districts.
The Natural Capital Finance Facility element is part of a €55 million loan from the European Investment Bank, the EU bank, signed in December 2018. It supports projects that aim to bolster biodiversity and use nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation.
The municipality has put forward four projects as the first ones to be financed under the Natural Capital Finance Facility portion of the loan, as soon as the assessment and design phase by the consulting firm has been carried out:
All these projects will also boost biodiversity by favouring local species.
Athens is a pilot project, which we think could be expanded to a lot of other cities.