Adaptation
measures

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„Prague is plagued by issues typical of large cities - concrete surfaces cause the streets to become excessively hot, climate fluctuations and inappropriate water management contribute to longer periods of drought and more frequent extreme weather events, as well as contribute to an increase in possible health risks for residents. Streets lack appropriate green spaces. What are the possible solutions? Green roofs which cool houses down, revitalising residential courtyards, or even installing misting devices and drinking water fountains in urban spaces. For the past several years, the Environmental Protection Department has offered financial support for revitalisation projects targeting "adaptation" and for the maintenance of green spaces and watercourses. This grant programme allows anyone who wants to help in improving the environment around us to fund their own renovation projects.“ FotoPetr Hlubuček, Deputy Mayor for the Environment

It is an undeniable fact that climate change is taking place and is significantly affecting our lives in the process. As a result, we should not only focus on steps which can be taken to prevent the situation from worsening (so-called mitigation measures), but also target those actions which can be undertaken to redirect its effects as best as possible, and thus eliminate the negative impacts on Prague's everyday life. It is for this reason, that we also emphasise adaptation - an approach which seeks to adapt to irreversible changes and trends caused by human actions in the past. The common goal should be simple - to make life better and healthier for all of us.

In large metropolises, among which Prague belongs, climate change leads to an increase in average annual temperatures, where extreme temperature fluctuations are no longer the exception. This happens alongside a rise in the average of extremely hot days per year with temperatures reaching above 30 °C during the day and not descending below 20 °C at night, or an uneven distribution of rainfall over the calendar year with alternating periods of extreme rainfall and drought.

Graph: An example of a climate label of the Klimasken tool Infographic 1 Infographic 1

Legenda k obrázku a další informace zde: www.klimasken.cz

Adaptation offers the right way of managing such phenomena, at least to a certain extent. It thus allows us to combat the so-called urban heat island effect, which is now almost unavoidable in large urban built-up areas. Appropriately chosen adaptation measures can lessen its impacts, and they do so in a way that takes advantage of the beneficial properties of nature itself.

The Prague 2030 Climate Plan builds on the currently implemented Capital City of Prague Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and its annually updated dynamic repository of more than 200 projects. Both documents are based in combining implementation of so-called blue-green and grey infrastructures. In this way, they seek to maximise the potential offered by a combination of natural elements and modern technologies. The implemented measures should not be invasive, conversely, they should strive to be as environmentally friendly as possible, and if we may say so, tasteful. Adaptation is guided by the desire to provide the most effective solutions which are simultaneously pleasing to the eye.

What are the main goals set for adaptation?

„Adaptation measures are intended to make life in Prague more pleasant for all of us. If we concentrate on them and continuously focus our efforts, we can mitigate the negative impacts of typical large city problems - nature itself offers the solutions.“ FotoKateřina Schön, Head of the Adaptation Strategy Working Group

It is necessary to begin with a continuous and detailed mapping process in order to identify the challenges we face. This is why adaptation approaches rely considerably on rigorous monitoring which they use as a baseline to build supporting tools that are able of identifying the most significant problem areas and offer ways of effectively addressing them. Exposure and adaptation indices, maps of microclimatic conditions, studies of extreme precipitation events, or installation of greenery at public transport stops are just some examples of tools without which make the implementation of adaptation measures successful and possible. This is because they help to identify where to intervene and provide an excellent basis for later consideration of whether the individual measures met their goals.

We have incorporated the existing adaptation objectives into the Implementation Plan for 2020-2024, which is co-authored by the involved departments of Prague City Hall, in addition to the involvement of individual city district administrations and city organisations. The live repository of 207 projects is reviewed annually to see which ones have progressed and which, on the other hand, have been assessed as ineffective.

We are particularly focusing on the following:

  1. Improving microclimatic conditions in Prague and decreasing the impacts of the urban heat island effect
  2. Lessening the impact of extreme hydrological events, such as torrential rains or prolonged periods of summer drought
  3. Adaptation in buildings and improving their energy performance
  4. Improving preparedness and crisis management for combatting extreme climate events
  5. Development of environmental education
  6. Research on the impacts of climate change on the quality of life of residents

With what projects do we intend to reach these goals?

Each priority essentially breaks down into two phases - first, a thorough analysis of the identified phenomenon must be undertaken and only then an appropriate method may be chosen, leading to the most effective solution. This is especially important because situations change on a very small scale. While an increase in green space in one urban area will contribute to better living conditions for its residents, it might not necessarily affect its neighbours the same way. Adaptation therefore relies first and foremost on intensive cooperation and the implementation of measures that remain sensible when viewed from a broader – citywide – perspective.

Klimasken

„Klimasken is an assessment tool that allows us to map the current state of the carbon footprint in different regions. Because it draws on annual expert analyses, it allows us to track climate data over time and to compare cities that have joined the monitoring system with each other.“ FotoTereza Líbová, Climate Change Adaptation Specialist, PCH Environmental Protection Department

The basic tool we use for monitoring is the so-called Klimasken. Its usefulness lies mainly in its simplicity and accessibility, as it can be used for entire districts and cities. Klimasken produces an assessment based on dozens of carefully selected indicators which are based on rigorous analyses, professional experience of local governments, and several years of applied testing.

Prague is no exception and is already using the Klimasken system with success. The output of the Klimasken analysis is the so-called climate label - a simple and illustrative "ray" infographic which presents an assessment of the subject's contribution to climate change (in the form of emissions produced), as well as the possibility of adapting to it (adaptation). The label forms an intersection of the analysis of a number of indicators, which are divided into four main areas. From these, it calculates a central value, the Climate Resilience and Low Carbon Factor (CReLoCaF). It scores the results on a five-point colour scale, with dark green being the best and red the worst. Light green, yellow and orange place in-between.

Rainwater management

„It is the long-term plan of the City's leadership to develop unified Rainwater Management Standards. We are well on our way to finalizing them. They will become a key tool in the fight against unnecessary wasting of rainwater and will mitigate the devastating impacts of climate change on the maintenance of urban green spaces. The volume of rainwater that disappears into the sewerage network has great potential, and it is time to start using it to improve the quality of life for all of us.“ FotoPetr Hlubuček, Deputy Mayor for the Environment

The most effective, and practically the only tool in the fight against extreme drought is the retention of rainwater in the landscape. As a result of climate change, water is unevenly distributed, alternating between periods of extreme rainfall and leading to flooding and periods of extreme drought, which is when urban green spaces particularly suffer. The shared aim is to ensure that as little rainwater as possible ends up in the sewers. The Prague City Hall is a leading example of this.

The first step is to develop and approve a document – Standards for Rainwater Management – that would be binding for the city itself, for the individual city districts, as well as for developers and property owners undertaking building renewals. Most often, it is private developers and construction companies who implement major projects in Prague, and they should be already keeping in mind how to get involved in the implementation of the Adaptation Strategy during the planning process. If we learn how to manage water better by using a system of retention basins, aquifers, and other elements (a catalogue of which should be a part of such a document), it will also be possible to retain it in the landscape for longer, where it can then be used for subsequent watering of public greenery. This will prevent rainwater from being channelled into the sewerage network without further use. The same effect can be achieved, for example, by building swales, vegetated roofs, or by converting impermeable areas into permeable ones.

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In this context, we should not forget the potential offered by grey water, as wastewater may be recycled and subsequently used for similar purposes as rainwater. Consequently, it could become an additional watering source for urban tree avenues, flower beds, and green roofs. In addition, there is also a significant potential in its use for energy production. Wastewater recycling therefore represents one of the possible examples of how to support a wider effort to revitalise green spaces. The collected water may not only be used for flushing toilets but can also be further processed and used as irrigation for vegetation.

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That is why we try to find mutual agreements with citizens, city districts and organisations, investors, and developers. Good practice in the approach to the development of bicycle infrastructure should be uniform and benefit all. However, this approach will also require efforts to make changes to legislation and strengthen the authority of the City Hall in order to allow it to have the most freedom in choosing the appropriate regulations. Following the example of other European cities, a special financial plan of 5 to 6 billion CZK should be created to finance the development of the city's bicycle network.

The availability of bicycle racks is also an important issue in this case. The so-called B+R parking at public transport stops and stations should continue to be gradually expanded with new racks, bicycle sheds and, in areas with suitable capacity, bicycle storage rooms. This will be of a great benefit for cycling traffic, as citizens will not have to waste time searching for a place to safely store their bicycles, and it is expected to also have a degree of a motivational effect.

Revitalisation of green and blue areas

„Our vision is one a blue-green metropolis. With this aim, we mainly turn to the so-called nature-based solutions. We are revitalising parks and planting new trees because they provide natural protection against heat and drought. We are renewing river floodplains and wetlands because they retain surface water. But we also don’t forget that blue and green spaces have great aesthetic value. That is also an important aspect of a better quality of life.“ FotoKateřina Schön, Head of the Adaptation Working Group

In principle, there are two ways to proceed. First, to take advantage of what is available and to contribute to the regeneration of existing parks, green spaces, and lawns through targeted and thoughtful revitalisation. Secondly, to focus on planting and designing new blue-green spaces. In this way, we will achieve an increase in the ecological value of the city. Of course, the intention is to take a holistic approach to this work, which is why a tree a strategy on the conservation of tree avenues should be developed in the near future, alongside mapping of blue-green infrastructure and paved surfaces.

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Thanks to the activities of the Environmental Protection Department of the Prague City Hall and its unit for adaptation measures, steps such as installing green tram lanes, strategy for adaptation of public transport stops, a set of water infiltration maps, and a methodology for adaptation of urban courtyards have all been developed. A good example of an adaptation project is the revitalisation of the Radiovka apple orchard in Prague-Satalice which had transformed into landfill due to neglect. Now it should become a multifunctional outdoor centre suitable for recreation and sports in an environment enriched by planted fruit trees by 2024, at the latest. A detailed list and map of all current adaptation measures is available on the www.adaptacepraha.cz website.

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However, no less attention should be paid to water in the capital. In this case, a series of revitalisations, and the establishment of river and valley floodplains, wetlands, and other water areas are currently planned. In addition to enhancing the water retention capacity of the landscape, these efforts will also serve other functions, for example, promoting flood safety or supporting biodiversity. At the same time, they have a considerable aesthetic and recreational potential - tourist, recreational, and sports facilities can be established around these newly accessible or recently created bodies of water. For instance, the restoration of Císařský ostrov is to be carried out under the umbrella of the Prague Institute for Planning and Development (IPR Praha) and is to include the revitalisation of Divoká Vltava river. This project is a good example of an approach that promises many positive benefits for the city districts and for Prague as a whole.

Adaptation of buildings and the environment

„The adopted Prague 2030 Climate Plan should be viewed in its entirety. There is no better example where adaptation meets mitigation than the implementation of measures in buildings. Whether we're talking about green roofs, insulating buildings against heat and cold, implementing shading elements, vertical green walls that cool the surrounding area, or about renovating entire courtyards - all of these measures can lead to a reduction in the city's carbon footprint, but most importantly, they lead to an improvement in the quality of life in the city.“ FotoTereza Líbová, Climate Change Adaptation Specialist, PCH EPD

The Prague 2030 Climate Plan will allow the city to become less dependent on fossil fuels which is an aim closely related to the efforts of the City Hall to promote renewable energy. Prague’s building stock and roof areas offer a huge, but untapped, potential for the installation of adaptation and mitigation measures.

The possibilities are far from limited to the installation of photovoltaic panels. The plan is to aid in establishing green roofs, i.e. surfaces rich in vegetation, and interlink them with the idea of smart buildings. We are also considering the use of heat pumps for heating buildings, or the modernisation of the outer shell of buildings with the right materials and colours. Prague's primary and secondary schools are the example of some of the buildings which should undergo such a transformation. There are also plans to organise public competitions in which expert juries will select the most aesthetically pleasing and innovative solutions.

Revitalization of urban courtyards offers similarly promising results. The Living Courtyards methodology was developed in cooperation with the Environmental Protection of the Prague City Hall and individual building owners whose property accounts for the numerous Prague courtyards. The aim of the city administration is to motivate private owners to apply for subsidies and grants and direct them towards implementing their own projects of green spaces, facades, etc. Each of the concerned property owners could therefore contribute to reducing the city's carbon footprint while also perhaps creating a nice space for cultural and social events at the same time.

Planting a tree. It may seem like a trivial thing. According to the current Action Plan, one million trees should be planted between 2018 and 2021. We are working to get developers and property owners to participate in this initiative. However, some trees are simply not suited to the city, and even for those that are, choices must be made to assess where they can thrive best. Bringing these rules together into one strategic document is undoubtedly a goal with a long-term positive effect.

Organic farming

„Two years ago, Prague decided to abandon the standard leasing of agricultural land and made the switch to sustainable agriculture. The continued interest of the city districts and small farmers confirmed that this step was the correct one to make. Agricultural land in the city’s ownership is not only not lying fallow anymore but it is also being used to grow crops in ways that are much more environmentally friendly.“ FotoPetr Hlubuček, Deputy Mayor for the Environment

There are about 14,000 ha of agricultural land in Prague. 1,650 ha is managed directly by the Prague City Hall who used to offer it to farmers for a fee under lease agreements until 2019. The land was mostly used for intensive agricultural purposes. In 2019, Prague City Hall terminated all pre-existing lease agreements at once and embarked on a new path, the principles of which are summarised in the Principles of Eco-friendly Land Management in the Capital City of Prague.

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As of 2019, anyone who wants to farm on agricultural land owned by the capital must commit to the principles of organic farming. These consist of regular rotation of crops according to set crop rotation plans, planting so-called cover crops, utilising appropriate ploughing methods, and a ban on chemical fertilisers with only organic fertilisers being permitted. In addition, the metropolis limits the maximum area of individual fields to a maximum of 5 ha, which must be divided by field paths, borders, and copses. More and more city districts and municipal organisations are gradually joining this initiative led by the City Hall.

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The city management has made its preference in terms of agricultural activities very clear. The Methodology for the Establishment of Community Gardens represents a similarly oriented document. As with organic farming, Prague hopes that the boom in allotment and community gardens will lead to an increase in the number of green infrastructure elements, improved microclimatic conditions, and enhanced biodiversity.

Environmental education and outreach

„Environmental issues are sometimes unfairly neglected. Adaptation is not only about the projects themselves, but also about educating and expanding the citizens' base of knowledge. Above all, we need to realise that everyone can play their part. This is also linked to the accessibility of information and available help for those who want to get involved but do not know how. This is the educational role we are trying to fulfil in various activities at the EPD.“ FotoTereza Líbová, Climate Change Adaptation Specialist, PCH EPD

The potential for direct involvement of citizens can be met with outreach and actively offering participation opportunities. In the framework of awareness-raising campaigns, we try to popularise current environmental topics and increase the overall interest of citizens in the principles of a sustainable and healthy metropolis. We also promote environmental education in schools, where a range of programmes is organised in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Department as part of environmental education, training, and awareness (EVVO). We try to bring awareness to important environmental events such as World Water Day or Earth Day.

The Environmental Protection Department of the Prague City Hall annually allocates approximately 40 million CZK from its budget to environmental grant and subsidy programmes, which also include grants for adaptation. This is a way to attract unions, civic associations, NGOs, and citizens who would like to contribute with the implementation of their own adaptation project. City districts and organisations are also active in their involvement.

There are plans for the establishment of a new information centre focused on adaptation which is to become a central point for anyone interested in this issue. It will not only function as a platform for sharing information and examples of good practice, but also act as a methodological partner for city districts, organisations, citizens, and others. Specialists at the adaptation centre will become a point of contact for anyone unsure of how to apply for a grant or subsidy programme, or someone who simply does not have a clear idea how to approach a project. After all, adaptation is a long-term process. The more of us are involved, the easier the work on such projects will become, and the sooner we can enjoy a healthier metropolis and a better life within it.