Exploration of Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies in the Mediterranean Regions

The pace of climate change and the consequent warming of the Earth’s surface is increasing vulnerability and decreasing adaptive capacity. Adapting successfully depends on the development of technology, institutional organization, financing availability and the exchange of information. Populations living in arid and semi-arid zones; low-lying coastal areas; land with water shortages or are at risk of overflow; or small islands are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Due to increasing population density in sensitive areas, some regions have become more vulnerable to events such as storms, floods and droughts, like the river basins and coastal plains. Human activities have fragmented and increased the vulnerability of ecosystems, which limit both their natural adaptation and the effectiveness of the measures adopted.

To develop good and efficient adaptation policies, we have to know what the present and future impacts are and calibrate their intensity and duration. Adaptation strategies demand actions that can be developed at national, regional and local levels since many of the consequences and climate change effects depend on the particular economic, geographic and social circumstances of each country or region.

The five Mediterranean-climate regions are already affected by several climate change impacts. They are already and will continue to experience the highest rise in temperature and, also, the greatest decrease in annual precipitation. This situation will lead to increased desertification, decreased annual river flow, biodiversity loss and increased mortality risk during heat waves, among other impacts.

Mitigation and adaptation efforts need to be combined appropriately and linked with the sustainable development of communities. Both approaches must be managed by carefully planning for alternative solutions, prioritizing those that are cost-effective and minimize negative consequences, and enhancing local government leadership.

To avoid and try to adapt to these impacts, several cities have already adopted local adaptation strategies. In this article, I review a few examples of some strategies developed in cities located in two of the Mediterranean-climate regions: the European Basin and California.

Almada, Portugal:

Due to increased demographic pressure, which led to the erection of illegal housing, the region is prone to sea flooding and heavy impacts from storms. To save this important natural area and increase local resilience to climate change, the municipality developed specific adaptive measures aimed at preserving its identity as a fishing community, but also taking into account trends, which put pressure on the area, such as tourism.

Examples of these adaptation measures include:

i. Improve natural cooling
ii. Use of solar energy in buildings
iii. Conservative average sea-level rise limits
iv. Development of urban green corridors
v. Construction of terrace defenses
vi. Rehabilitation of river banks with riparian vegetation
vii. Creation of retention basins or wet pounds system
viii. Dune restoration (natural buffers).

Los Angeles, California:

The GreenLA Climate Action Plan identifies over 50 individual action items, some new, many on-going, that will lead Los Angeles to lower greenhouse gas emission levels and adapt to global warming impacts.

Examples of these mitigation and adaptation measures include:

i. Reduce the urban heat island effect by adjusting building codes to favor “green” and “cool” roofs and cool pavements for new construction; increasing tree canopy in neighborhoods with higher temperatures; and continuing to build new parks and increase open space.
ii. Provide incentives for solar rooftop installations for insulation and additional power supply.
iii. Decrease demand for power on hot days by promoting customer rebates for energy efficiency. Making all municipal buildings energy efficient.
iv. Ensure water conservation by reducing outdoor water use by encouraging the use of climate appropriate landscaping. Continuing aggressive rebates for indoor water conservation tools such as low-flow toilets, showerheads, and faucets. Expanding stormwater capture programs.
v. Work with the private sector to offer effective incentives for the growth of local green businesses. Work with local educational institutions such as universities, community colleges, and adult education programs to provide city residents the skills needed to work for green businesses.
vi. Expanding bicycle infrastructure to promote alternative clean transportation options.
vii. Rebates to incentivize electric car ownership, etc. Converting 100% of Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses to alternative fuels.
viii. Design and construct a district cooling plant and distribution system to supply chilled water to downtown Los Angeles buildings for space cooling application.

Madrid, Spain:

Emissions of greenhouse gases in Madrid represent 6.2% of total national emissions. Among these, transport accounts for some 53 % of total carbon dioxide emissions, followed by the residential, commercial and institutional sectors. It is for this reason that the Strategy of Air Quality of the Community of Madrid sets a target of 15% for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the transport sector and, another 15 % in the residential, commercial and institutional sectors, with respect to the values inventoried in 2005.

Because transportation is the sector that emits the most carbon dioxide, I show below some of the important measures in place to reduce these emissions:

i. Modernization of the autotaxi fleet with fuels and clean technologies.
ii. Promote the Public-private partnership to promote the use of gas vehicles.
iii. Implementation and consolidation of charging infrastructure and promoting the use of electric vehicles in Madrid.
iv. Renewal of institutional fleet under environmental criteria.
v. Tax incentives for the transformation of private transportation to cleaner technologies and fuels.
vi. Actions to promote the use of bicycles, motorbikes and walking.
vii. Promoting the use of shared vehicle (carpooling) and multiuser vehicle (carsharing).
viii. Expanding the parking network.
ix. Low emission zones and residential areas of priority.
x. Circulation of electric vehicles through BUS VAO lane.
xi. Reducing emissions from goods transport.
xii. Gasified Corridor Madrid- Castilla La Mancha –Valencia.
xiii. Platforms reserved for public transport.
xiv. Improving public transportation: metro, commuter and bus (urban and interurban).
xv. Performances in underground bus-stations (intercambiadores) to improve the public transport offer.
xvi. Development workers mobility plans
xvii. Reducing emissions associated with airport traffic.

About the Author: Dr. Cristina García is a professor at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM). At UCM she researches climate change mitigation and adaptation issues and is currently studying carbon taxes, dynamic efficiency and adaptation to climate change in several European cities. She is the Director of the “European Union and the Mediterranean: Historical, Cultural, Political, Economic and Social Basis” graduate degree program at UCM’s Euro-Mediterranean University Institute (EUMI). This past summer, she served as a visiting scholar at the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation where her research was focused on climate change adaptation in Los Angeles County cities and coastal areas as well as on public health.