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Building Resilient Cities in Valencia: wrap up for EURESFO24!

From June 26 to 28, 2024, the European Urban Resilience Forum (EURESFO24), co-organized by REGILIENCE, was held in the vibrant city of Valencia, Spain. This annual event has become a cornerstone for urban resilience, attracting city leaders, climate experts, policymakers, and stakeholders from across Europe and beyond to collaborate on strategies for building resilient cities in the face of climate change and other urban challenges. Running in parallel with EURESFO24 was the Valencia Green Week, a significant event dedicated to promoting sustainable practices and environmental awareness. Valencia Green Week featured a series of activities, workshops, and exhibitions focused on green innovation, renewable energy, and sustainable urban development, creating a comprehensive platform for discussing and advancing urban resilience and sustainability initiatives. 

The 2024 edition of EURESFO was built around three key thematic streams and a fourth special thematic stream, each addressing crucial aspects of resilience, sustainable development and recovery. The first stream focused on multilevel governance, cooperation, and the imperative of a just transition. The second thematic stream delved into water resilience and the promotion of the Blue Economy within and beyond the Mediterranean region. The third stream aimed at enabling the transformation towards resilient, adaptive, and climate-neutral cities and regions. The fourth special stream focused on building resilience in fragile settings and bridging the gap between Humanitarian Response to Post-conflict Resilience and Recovery. 

One of the fascinating aspects was the diverse range of perspectives and approaches to resilience. From climate change adaptation to a broader view addressing various future threats, the approach varies based on the specific context and framework within which cities operate. 

Cities are accelerating their transitions toward a net zero, climate-resilient future, showcasing urgency and leadership that all levels of government must acknowledge. Achieving climate neutrality by 2030 requires a collective, all-of-society approach. Securing support from all government levels is crucial for creating inclusive, thriving cities for everyone. As host city Mayor María José Catalá Verdet highlighted, “We cannot achieve true energy transition and sustainability without considering those who have less.” Cities in Spain are leading by example, forming City Climate Contracts with national and regional stakeholders, inspiring broader efforts to garner support and speed up transitions. 

Cities also emphasized the importance of building trust and collaborating on solutions at the community level to scale up action. Valencia, Greater Manchester, and London are effectively gaining local support and delivering results by co-designing projects that address heat and flood risks, meeting the urgent needs of their communities. 

Financing climate adaptation is a significant challenge that local governments cannot meet alone. Collaboration with the wider public and private sectors is essential. Cities are adopting a holistic approach to investing in climate resilience, developing comprehensive portfolios of investment-ready projects. 

Another key takeaway was the urgent need for sustainable and resilient actions, highlighting the necessity for flexible financing, swift project implementation, and stronger public-private partnerships to meet the ambitious climate goals by 2030. The insights and strategies discussed emphasized the collective effort required to transform cities into sustainable and livable environments for all. 


Valencia sets the stage

Valencia, distinguished as the European Green Capital for 2024, was the perfect place for this year’s forum. The city’s commitment to sustainable development is evident in its extensive efforts to reduce carbon emissions, promote renewable energy, and improve public transportation. Valencia’s network of bike lanes and pedestrian areas, along with its green spaces and urban gardens, boosts air quality and biodiversity. The city’s advanced waste management system and innovative water management strategies demonstrate a proactive approach to environmental sustainability.  

Engaging Workshops and Sessions

The forum began with an electrifying opening plenary meeting, introducing mayors and city representatives from the Metropolitan Region of Arnhem-Nijmegen, Tallinn, Sofia, Leuven, and Heidelberg. This first session, themed “Transforming Europe Together: Mayors for Integrated Climate Action,” definitely set the tone for the event. It provided participants with a comprehensive overview of the collaborative efforts and innovative strategies these cities are implementing to integrate climate action into urban resilience planning. 

Throughout the 3 days event, a series of interactive sessions and workshops and study visits have been designed to foster collaboration and knowledge exchange. Topics covered included: 

  • Adaptation finance: Concrete and sustainable solutions to bridge the gap between financiers and Cities climate-neutral cities and regions; 
  • Multi-level Governance: Effective strategies for reinforcing climate resilience through multi-level governance, for regional and national adaptation efforts. 
  • Climate Adaptation and Mitigation: Innovative approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate impacts. 
  • Resilient Infrastructure: Strategies for designing and maintaining infrastructure that can withstand extreme weather events and other stressors. 
  • Community Engagement: Best practices for involving local communities in resilience planning and decision-making processes. 
  • Digital Resilience: Leveraging digital tools, platforms and technologies to boost urban resilience. 

Participants engaged in hands-on activities, shared experiences, and developed actionable plans tailored to their cities’ unique needs. 


Spotlight on “Multi-level governance: coordinating for climate adaptation” session 

REGILIENCE made a significant impact on the first day of EURESFO24 contributing to an engaging parallel session under the theme “Multi-level governance: coordinating for climate adaptation”. The session focused on multi-level governance and featured insightful contributions from: 

  • Emilia-Aline Botezan, Head of International Affairs and Foreign Investment Department at Cluj-Napoca City Hall; 

The session kicked off with a high-level panel discussion and a technical breakout session that delved into the collaboration between national and local levels, within the EU Mission for Smart and Climate-Neutral Cities. The final panel discussion examined multi-level governance from a climate adaptation perspective, exploring vertical cooperation and strategies that could be replicated in other contexts. Moderated by Erica Manuelli (Junior Officer Urban Resilience at ICLEI Europe) and Federico Aili (Associate for Knowledge and Programs at Resilient Cities Network), the session provided a dynamic platform where experts shared their impactful experiences. Participants gained a comprehensive understanding of the complexities and opportunities in improving urban resilience through integrated climate action. 

Here are some of multi-level governance actions: 

  • Cluj-Napoca has developed green urban spaces to combat urban heat islands and boost biodiversity. This initiative involves collaboration at the local, national, and European Union levels. Locally, the city has created parks and green corridors. Nationally, the Romanian government provides funding and regulatory support, while the European Union contributes through programs like Horizon 2020 and the European Regional Development Fund. Collaboration with local businesses, universities, and NGOs further supports these efforts, and participation in international networks like the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy allows for the exchange of best practices. 
  • In Croatia, coastal cities such as Dubrovnik are implementing measures to protect against sea-level rise and flooding. These efforts are supported by local actions, national policies, and European Union funding. Locally, cities construct sea walls and enhance natural barriers. Nationally, the Croatian government provides regulatory frameworks and financial support, while the European Union offers funds through programs such as the European Structural and Investment Funds. Additionally, collaboration with research institutions and international networks like the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR) enhances the effectiveness of these initiatives. 
  • Paris has implemented urban greening projects to combat urban heat islands and improve air quality. This involves local actions such as creating green spaces, rooftop gardens, and urban farms. Nationally, the French government supports these initiatives through regulatory frameworks and funding. At the European level, Paris benefits from EU programs and funding aimed at supporting climate adaptation projects. The city also engages with private companies, research institutions, and community organizations to drive these projects. As part of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, Paris collaborates with other major cities worldwide to share best practices and strategies for climate adaptation. 
  • In Estonia, a concrete example of multi-level governance in action is the collaboration between the Estonian government and the Union of Harju County Municipalities on climate adaptation strategies. This initiative involves regular meetings and workshops that bring together representatives from local municipalities, national government bodies, and EU programs to discuss and coordinate climate adaptation efforts.
  • Valencia hosts “Mission Fridays,” where all departments and stakeholders discuss climate adaptation strategies. This multi-level governance model involves local government departments collaborating with national bodies and EU programs. These weekly meetings facilitate cross-departmental cooperation and align local strategies with national climate policies and EU directives. Engagement with local universities, research institutions, and community organizations ensures comprehensive and integrated climate action plans. 

Key takeaways from the session included the critical need for spaces that foster multi-level collaboration and reflection, highlighting collective thinking as essential for addressing sectoral needs. Rather than specific funds, the focus should be on establishing open spaces for sharing and learning. Discussions also highlighted the unique opportunities for creation and adaptation at the local level, and the necessity of unity and collaboration, as institutions and companies cannot tackle adaptation alone. Moreover, the human implications of climate actions were stressed, with a call to consider community impacts when planning and executing strategies. 

Networking and Building Partnerships 

EURESFO is renowned for its ability to bring people together. This year’s forum provided ample opportunities for networking and partnership building. Participants connected and shared insights during breakout sessions, and explored potential collaborations during evening socials. The vibrant atmosphere of Valencia, combined with the forum’s dynamic program, facilitated meaningful exchanges and the building of lasting professional relationships.

EURESFO Marketplace 

Our stand at the EURESFO Marketplace was a great opportunity to showcase several innovative projects and platforms dedicated to climate resilience: 

  • ARSINOE is a 4-year EU-funded project aimed at creating climate-resilient regions through systemic solutions and innovations. ARSINOE combines the Systems Innovation Approach (SIA) and the Climate Innovation Window (CIW) to build an ecosystem for climate change adaptation solutions. This approach is demonstrated through nine proof-of-concept projects to showcase its applicability, replicability, potential, and efficacy. 
  • Impetus is a project dedicated to accelerating climate adaptation, Impetus employs data-driven approaches and community engagement strategies. By fostering collaboration between researchers, policymakers, and local stakeholders, Impetus develops scalable solutions that effectively address climate challenges. 
  • weADAPT is a leading platform for climate adaptation knowledge sharing, weADAPT connects a global community of practitioners, researchers, and policymakers. It facilitates the exchange of insights, tools, and resources to empower stakeholders in developing climate-resilient strategies. 
  • The Climate Innovation Window (CIW) aims to be a reference portal for innovations on climate change adaptation. It was developed under the frame of BRIGAID, a H2020 funded project and afterwards embedded in the work of the project’s spinoff, BRIGAID CONNECT Association. The CIW aims to bridge the gap between problem owners and solution providers by promoting innovations which cover a wide array of climate adaptation issues and areas. CIW is within ARSINOE’s project.

Looking Ahead 

As EURESFO 2024 drew to a close, there was a palpable sense of urgency and optimism. Participants left Valencia inspired and equipped with new ideas and strategies to implement in their cities. The forum underscored the importance of innovative solutions, collaborative action, and strong leadership in making our cities more resilient. 

While we see numerous significant and impactful initiatives at all levels, from cities to the EU, it’s clear that these efforts are insufficient. Global average temperatures have risen faster than ever, with 2023 being the warmest year on record!

Eleni (Lenio) Myrivili urged us to be bolder, to work better together, and to do more. Achieving this requires us to enhance our collaboration, and collaboration isn’t rocket science; it’s far more complex. It’s something we grasp and engage in with our minds, hearts, and hands.

Good News: the next edition will take place in Rotterdam! 

See you next year for EURESFO25! 

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