Ghent Climate Adaptation Plan 2016-2019

The Ghent Climate Adaptation Plan will help to keep our heads cool and feet dry

Our climate is changing. Weather records are being routinely broken. Extremes in temperature, rainfall, and wind are being recorded around the globe. The City of Ghent is going to great lengths to drive down energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, making a contribution to the mitigation of climate change. At the same time, we must adapt our cities - including Ghent - to the effects of climate change. This is called climate adaptation, and ensures that in the future our city will remain a nice and liveable place to live and work.

The City of Ghent developed a Climate Adaptation Plan 2016-2019 containing a climate adaptation strategy and action plan, with local measures for the adaptation of the urban environment to climate change. In doing so, the City of Ghent is working on the development of a climate-robust city, and contributing to the European objectives for the creation of a climate-resistant Europe.

Weather records are being routinely broken

Our climate is changing. Weather records are being routinely broken. Extremes in temperature, rainfall, and wind are being recorded around the globe. 2016 will be the hottest year on earth ever. The previous record year was 2015, before that 2014… In Flanders, September 2016 was unusual warm, with 32 degrees Celsius on September 13th, an all time record for that day. But also in other fields records fell: June 2016, with 175 liters of water per square meter, was the wettest month of June ever in Flanders. In addition a record number of storm days (20) were recorded in June and the first six months of the year were record wet (651 millimeters).

Unfortunately those periods of extreme heat and heavy downpours are to be expected even more regular the next few years. The cause? Climate change.

The City of Ghent is going to great lengths to drive down energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, making a contribution to the mitigation of climate change (see Ghent Climate Plan 2014-2019). But we can’t stop climate change completely, it is happening already and its effects will only increase over the coming years. Therefore, at the same time, we must adapt our cities - including Ghent - to the effects of climate change. This is called climate adaptation, and ensures that in the future our city will remain a nice and liveable place to live and work.

Climate change hits cities hardest

Climate change hits cities hardest. The temperature in cities is generally higher than in surrounding rural areas. This effect is known as urban heat island, chiefly caused by urban areas with dense infrastructure, where natural surfaces such as vegetation and water are replaced with impermeable and warm surfaces, usually constructed out of concrete and asphalt: buildings, roads, car parks, industrial and commercial areas, … The results both from measurements and models show that the Ghent city centre is on average some 3 degrees warmer than the surrounding area, with peaks of up to 8°C on hot days. But there is more. Sealed surfaces in the city cause local flooding in case of extreme precipitation, as water infiltration is limited and the sewage system can’t drain the excess rainwater. Time to look for solutions.

Deputy Mayor Tine Heyse: ‘We can’t stop climate change totally. But we can adapt ourselves. With the Ghent Climate Adaptation Plan, we ensure that the citizens of Ghent can keep their feet dry and heads cool, also in the future.’

Ghent Climate Adaptation Plan

On 16 October 2014, the City of Ghent was one of the first cities in Flanders to sign the European Covenant of Mayors on Climate Adaptation, called Mayors Adapt. With this move, Ghent committed to developing a climate adaptation strategy and drawing up an action plan with local measures for adapting the urban environment to climate change. This way, the City of Ghent is working on building a climate-robust city and contributing to the European objective of creating a climate-proof Europe. In November 2015, Ghent also signed the new integrated European covenant of mayors for climate and energy, of which Mayors Adapt is a part.

Consequently the first Ghent Climate Adaptation Plan has been developed. It contains our adaptation strategy and an action plan for the period 2016-2019 to make our city climate-robust. Our climate adaptation strategy is rested on 8 pillars:

  1. Political support base and broadening within the city organization
  2. Knowledge build-up regarding climate scenarios, impact, and vulnerability of Ghent
  3. Knowledge build-up regarding possible measures at the local level
  4. Integration into city policy plans, instruments, and processes
  5. Implementation by means of example projects
  6. Targeted communication and awareness-raising
  7. Partnerships and multi-stakeholder approach
  8. Monitoring and evaluation

These pillars are the basis for the action plan in chapter 4. It contains all actions for the period 2016-2019 to prepare Ghent for the future and deal with heat waves, precipitation extremes and water nuisance, extended periods of drought and water shortage.

The efforts towards making the city climate-robust should be seen as a major part of future planning. Adaptation takes place by focusing on:

  • more green through green belts, parks, street and square trees, green roofs, green walls and facade gardens
  • more space for water and green through clever exposure of waterways and canals, renovation of ditches, integration of floodable space, creating a truly green-blue network
  • prevention of soil sealing, by limiting the hardening of the public domain and the building footprint
  • maximization of the city’s sponge effect, allowing water to infiltrate back into the soil
  • cooling and shadow infrastructure on the public domain

These are all measures that not only secure a better future, but also create a pleasant, liveable, healthy, and safe city today for our residents and our businesses.

Example projects

The Ghent Climate Adaptation Plan contains a list of example projects that will be realized the coming years, such as:

Climate-robust design for Kettingplein

The “Kettingplein” is a traffic-free square, and at the moment completely covered in hardened surfaces. The City of Ghent wishes to make this square into an example project by transforming it into a climate-robust square with focus on water storage and thermal comfort. A design office with the requisite level of knowledge and expertise regarding climate adaptation will redesign the square. A participation project with the area is being set up.

Water-permeable pavement in two alleys in the inner city

Within the inner city, the possibilities for de-hardening are in many places minimal. One alternative could be to render the surface hardening itself water-permeable. However, the scope remains limited due to the various parameters at play: heavy traffic, presence of utility lines, risk of water nuisance for old houses, de-icing salts, … In two small alleys these parameters carry less weight, and water-permeable concrete paving stones are used for the reconstruction of the road surfaces.

Extra water storage green roof at city school De Klavertjes

City school De Klavertjes, is being renovated, including the roof. Almost 600 m² is set aside as green roof, a big part of it with enhanced water-storage capacity (100 l/m²) and water-storage technology. This roof will buffer water for some duration, and then follow up with controlled drainage towards the infiltration facility.

These example projects make climate adaptation more concrete, have an inspirational effect, and generate a learning-by-doing effect to build knowledge and experience with climate adaptation measures at the local level.

Additionally focus is placed on communication to and awareness-raising among citizens, companies, organisations, project developers,… in order to enhance the knowledge of and the support base for climate adaptation measures.

Mayors Adapt

The Ghent city council approved the Climate Adaptation Plan 2016-2019 on 26 September 2016. The Ghent Climate Adaptation Plan will be submitted to Mayors Adapt, fulfilling our commitment to work together towards a climate resilient Europe.