Tag Archives: Climate adaptation

‘Green Your City Competition’

Singapore the ‘Garden City’

Green Your City Competition

Over the past century we witnessed a constant trend, shifting the lives of people increasingly away from rural settings to the urban sphere. Whereas, currently around 54% of the world population lives in cities, this number is expected to rise to a full two-third of the human population (Hawley 2014). In the eyes of the ubiquitous threat that climate change poses not only for the continuation of vital ecosystem services, but for the very livelihood of our cities. It is indispensable prerequisite to adapt our cities in a sustainable fashion in order to be prepared for whatever changes the future might bring. Singapore, also known as the ‘Garden City’ is a prime example of a sustainable city, that has despite its growing population, managed to incorporate various types of biodiversity, such as green roofs, cascading vertical gardens, and many other forms of greenery, into its urban landscape. Singapore sets a benchmark for all cities to strive for, but how can this be achieved if a city has considerably less financial means?

The ‘Green Your City Competition’

The Green Your City Competition brings together citizens, eco-tourism agencies, municipalities, and many other stakeholders in cities all over Europe, in a combined effort to green our cities. How will this be done?

In a close collaboration with an environmentally conscious search machine, such as Ecosia that plants a tree for every search you do, through its ad revenue. By expanding this concept from solely deforested areas to cities, the energetic capacity of our society can be used in a communal effort to restore the biodiversity that has once been lost in our cities.


European Cities that are interested in participating will work in close collaboration with city specific agencies that are willing to put advertisement on the search engine. This could for example been done by eco-tourism agencies that have a high interest in attracting more people to their city. It is then the job of the municipality and environmental agencies to campaign the initiative to its citizens, in order to incorporate a wide-spread use of the ‘green search engine’. Specifically, for this purpose the ‘green search engine’ will be adapted next to its original purpose to a city specific context, in that once the citizens connect to the browser they will have the opportunity to type in the name of their city. This way it will be clear how much of the revenue created in the form of trees, greenwalls, green roofs etc. will be devoted to each city.

Which form will this endeavour take?

The municipality together with its citizens will make a business plan, deciding on the part of the city that need improvement, and in what form this will be done. Thus, depending on the problems the city is facing, they could for example decide to plant more trees in parking spaces, or construct green walls to counter the heat island effect of highly paved areas. Indeed, this can be realized in any way that seems appropriate for the city-specific case. Once enough revenue has been collected the city will receive the money for the assertion of the project. This will be done under close supervision by the ‘Green Your City’ committee to ensure the correct usage of the money. Lastly, the surplus of funds initially aimed on greening related projects ought to be used for the continued maintenance of those newly planted areas.


By mobilizing the energetic society through an incentive of a better living environment, facilitated through the little effort of simply using a new search engine, the cities will not only be able to carry out their vision for a sustainable future, but this will set an incentive for cities all over the world to follow their example.

For further information concerning sustainable search engines, look at: https://info.ecosia.org/what


Work Cited:

Hawley, Kate. 2014. “Transforming Cities For Sustainability: Facts And Figures”. Scidev.Net. https://www.scidev.net/global/cities/feature/transforming-cities-sustainability-facts-figures.html.



A Climate Adaptation Strategy is not only about the climate



”The Empire State Building was lit in green to support as our city sets out to divest from Big Oil” @NYCMayorsOffice

A city is a major centre of innovation, economic development and consumption, which inevitably connects it to the three pillars of sustainable development. Sustainable development and the creation of a liveable city is of great importance, as a city is a complex, but vulnerable system on which the outcomes of the changing climate can have a devastating effect. Especially with the expected growing population and continuing urbanisation.

Although cities may be the major drivers of climate change, consequently they can also be the driving forces of climate adaptation and mitigation. As a response, cities all around the world have developed a climate adaptation strategy, which enables them to prepare for extreme weather and make their city more resilient . Leiden has now joined this ongoing process as it has included climate adaptation in its Sustainability Ambitions. As time is short and the consequences of climate change become clear, Leiden should take advantage of the precedent research that has been done and the possible solutions that have been developed.

Rotterdam is a delta city, part of the climate adaptation strategy

A first lesson to be learned regarding the climate adaptation strategies from, for example, New York , Londen , Copenhagen and Rotterdam, is that a climate proof city is rather an outcome than a separate goal. It is part of a greater transition towards a liveable and resilient city. ”Preparing for extreme weather and further climate change is about managing risks and increasing [our] resilience to them – it is therefore as much about the economy, quality of life and social equality, as about the environment” (page 12). A strong green-blue grid is part of the solution, but to become a sustainable city, climate adaptation should be incorporated and linked (page 6) to other sectors and projects. Consequently, collective action (page 12) should be taken, incorporating stakeholders from different scale levels. Citizens are one of the most important stakeholders in this process, as they will be greatly affected by any or none action undertaken. However, the political conditions have a great influence on the transition as well. Therefore, the city of Leiden should investigate the possible drivers and barriers for initiatives and action to be taken. By analysing existing projects, the contextual barriers can be addressed. Possible institutional barriers such as the market, the social-cultural context and the political framework should be investigated as well. This analysis would eventually lead to the creation of favourable conditions for the climate adaptation strategy to be successful. Lastly, it should be understood that the transition towards a resilient and liveable city is an ongoing process and that the planning should be open for new insights, theories and measures. The climate is changing and so should the solutions.

As several cities have already taken action, there are many examples of possible strategies and solutions. Portland, for example, is a pioneer regarding sustainability and the development of Smart Growth Strategies . London has used the concept of heat stress as an important parameter for spatial planning, which resulted in the East London Green Grid Master Plan.

East London Green Grid

Rotterdam has taken great initiatives and could be a source of inspiration for Leiden and so do other initiatives in the Netherlands. There are many collaborations between cities or communities that help and (financially) support each other. The urban green-blue grid is one example, but the European Climate Adaptation Platform can be of great use for Leiden as well. Moreover, they have already stated that they will join this platform and make use of the financial and technical support. I would suggest that more collaborations are created and that a global platform of knowledge, initiatives and funding is created to which all cities can contribute. The solutions for climate change might be unique for each location, it is still a global challenge with many cities facing the same problems.

Project Sponge: Cool Heating and Hot Cooling


The Netherlands lives with water. The world-famous water management techniques have proven invaluable for a country with 26% of its territory below sea level and another 29% at risk of river flooding, as taken from PBL. And in the face of climate change, these systems will become even more urgent.

The Dutch waterworks have found their way to all landscapes, except for one. The city. There is the last landscape that still experiences a risk of regular flooding. Albeit not life-threatening, flooding in a city the size of The Hague will cause substantial damage and associated repair costs. But what if the city could create a massive water storage capacity, making it in essence a large sponge, while simultaneously reducing heat stress and energy demand.

water-waterwarmtepomp grondwater
TK Warmtepomptechniek

Mainly designed on the well-proven principle of a water-water heat pump, some neat hypothetical additions can be added. The system boils down to a series of insulated underground water storage tanks and above-ground pipes. The pipe grid will run both through the building’s interior and as a trickling waterfall through the façade. The logic behind it is very simple. During summer, cold water from the tanks will be pumped through the building’s façade, cooling both the building and reducing the heat-island effect felt on the street by absorbing and transporting the sun’s heat away from the surface. This practice of transporting heat is very common in space applications and could also have large benefits in civil applications. By using this technology, the water will heat up, creating a buffer of thermal energy. Come winter, this thermal energy can be used to heat the connected building, reducing further need for gas or electric heating. In this way buildings will have a positive effect on the temperature of their surroundings as well as reduce their energy bill sustainably.

Waterfall in glass panes at The Clarendon Hotel and Spa, on Tripadvisor

Besides the heat-island effect, cities of tomorrow (especially in the water country that is the Netherlands) will also have to deal with heavier rainfall. At the moment, cities scramble to create water retention capacities to store the water in such an event. Enter the system described before. By connecting the system to the storm sewer, a massive water retention capacity can be realized, for very little extra cost. Now the system has the added bonus of reducing nuisance from heavy rainfalls combined with limiting the effects of summer droughts.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) water has a minimum energy storage capacity of 2000 kWh/ton and is capable of storing this energy for up to a year. Given that thermal energy storage is well proven, yet bulky, underground applications should be well possible. In addition, cooling buildings by waterpipes through the roof has also been proven efficient back in the 1970s in New Delhi, India.

Where climate adaptation is now mainly seen as a necessary pain to keep the city livable in the face of climate change, implementing project Sponge will transform this into an opportunity. Creating revenue by tapping a new renewable energy source, while simultaneously installing all required climate adaptation measures with innovative green and blue technology.

Local initiatives will lead to a climate proof Leiden

I have been living in the city of Leiden for three years now and fell in love with the canals, the old streets and buildings and the little parks here and there. This beautiful scenery will however not last very long. The streets are subsiding, the city centre is heating up and water related problems are occuring. And these problems will only become more intense since the climate is changing due to global warming. There will be more tropical days, meaning that the heatstress problem will become dangerous to weaker people, such as small children and the elderly. Next to more tropical days, there will also be more heavy rainfall. Currently, with all the stone and little green in cities the amounts of water get to large and streets and buildings will flood, giving large damage costs. So, it is necessary that Leiden becomes climate adaptive.

This climate adaptation can be done by the munincipality who will force rules on the citizens to change. That however will be very hard and will not make the munincipality popular amongst their citizens. It is probably a better idea to have the initiatives come from the locals themselves. The munincipality can then help the citizens with expertise and subsidies.

There are already some local initiaves in the Netherlands that show great effort from within the local community. One of them is Amsterdam Rainproof, an initiative to decrease the water problems due to heavy rain in the city centre of Amsterdam.  For instance, people can put rain barrels in their garden to collect the water. And the project encourages the citizens to add more green to their gardens so the ground and the plants can hold on to the water longer. More information can be found on their website. https://www.rainproof.nl/

Another local initiative is Operatie Steenbreek, it literally tries to break the stones in the city of Leiden. So, replacing stones by plants, the same kind of idea as Amsterdam Rainproof. Because, plants don’t only hold water but also lower the temperature of an area. This is important since we will have more tropical days and the heatstress will cause great problems. In the current situation, people still have a lot of stone in the gardens or balconies. If everyone would more their houses and direct environment greener, then the water and heat problems will drastically decrease.

This video below explains Operatie Steenbreek.

These are just two examples of local initiatives in communities to battle the problems that arise because of climate change. It shows that little changes can eventually solve a large problem. These kind of bottom up actions lead to more awareness amongst the citizen. This is a very important aspect in climate adaptation. The more people that think and act on possible solutions the faster we can solve the big issues. Because heatstress and water issues are serious problems that must be solved before they become a threat to our health.

Smart Batteries may be the solution for a sustainable The Hague

Do you want to reduce your annual energy bill while you’re helping The Hague become future proof? Many steps have to be taken to minimize and eventually completely eliminate our carbon footprint. Using green energy in our houses, workplaces, school and other buildings is a clean and easy way to do our share for the environment. A company based in California, Green Charge Networks, might have developed the golden trick to facilitate this process, namely Smart batteries. This allows solar energy to be stored for later consumption. The company is specialized in creating predictive software and energy-storages, enabling households and local enterprises to lower their energy demand during peak hours. The project’s main goal is to promote energy-efficiency and in the meantime encourage more households, local businesses and public organisations to go solar.

Capture d’écran 2018-01-14 à 13.07.40.png

A picture of the smart lithium-ion batteries released by Sustainia. http://solutions.sustainia.me/solutions/smart-batteries-reducing-peak-power-consumption/

How does it work? The corporation provides lithium-ion batteries accompanied by big analytical data software. When solar energy is affluent during the day and the grid demand is low, the installed lithium power cube will automatically store the surplus energy. This technology, doubtlessly user-friendly, enables us to use green and free energy when the demand is high and the prices increase.

This video posted on Youtube by the company gives a short and clear visualization of the installation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVE0qazg8qM


A “two birds with one stone” solution. In addition to financial benefits, this innovation also empowers the use of locally produced green energy allowing cities to make big steps towards the carbon neutral goal. Currently, many cities are thriving in becoming fully green and carbon neutral before reaching half way the 21st century. The Hague makes no exception here. Reducing energy generated by non-renewable sources such as coals, oil and gas will definitely help us achieve this sustainable goal. Considering the current expansion of households, corporations and public organisations are eager to invest in green energy. Bearing in mind that in 2016 only 5,9% of the Dutch electricity bill was generated from renewable sources. The installation of smart lithium batteries in The Hague will be the golden opportunity to upscale the green energy consumption and to decouple the demand from the supply chain. Enabling other futuristic and green energy-efficient innovations to progress. Another unneglectable green aspect induced by this modernization is the fact that solar panels will account for higher production levels than ever before, meaning that raw materials are better invested. On the long run, this could also mean that less raw materials will have to be extracted for the production of solar panels. The only downside to this is that the amount of raw materials needed for the batteries will increase.

We-share-solar.jpgBe cool and share. The lithium-ion energy storages could form the base to new social projects. For example Solar share, allowing the extractionof energy stored by different consumers. Meaning, you could use green energy produced by your neighbour’s solar panels when he or she is not home. This share of renewable energy is already set in place in different municipalities in Australia and in the United States. Green Energy Cooperative, an association developing and financing different energy-efficiency projects that involve local communities, claims that inducing full engagement and responsibility of citizens in energy production is the key to a sustainable future.


Visualization of energy share.

I agree that much more will have to be done if we want to fight back climate change fully.  Yet I do believe this modern installation could be an easy way to facilitate the transition to green energy, as it brings along a broad range of benefits and opportunities. I especially like the fact that it could makes individuals more independent, seeing as they would not have to fully rely on the volatile prices of energy. It also strengthens local communities.


Warm weather, cool water – society’s response to rising temperatures

by Mathis Gilsbach

If you think about the weather in the Netherlands, what comes to mind? Probably rain, wind and rain and rather low temperatures. But occasionally people report they saw the sun for a bit and in summer there are even hot days. And these hot days are only likely to increase in the near future, due to climate change and changing weather patterns [link]. Wonderful, more days at the beach, more summer fun. Yes, likely, but also more heat stress, health issues and even death due to the effects of extreme heat.

And in Urban areas this can be felt more intensely due to the urban heat island effect [nicely explained in this video] whereby the temperature in cities can be a number of degrees higher than in the surrounding country side.

Urban_heat_island_(Celsius) (2).png
source: wikimedia

Adapting to changing weather patterns requires efforts on many levels. On the technical level, we need to develop new building materials and new solutions to reduce the heat island effect. On a planning level, cities need to be designed differently to allow for better air flows for example. But we also need measures on societal as well as a policy level.

To be able to adequately confront the challenges of rising temperatures we need more awareness in society on how to deal with these issues. In that case it can be helpful to look to other countries, which already have high temperatures. In France, severely hit by the heat wave of 2003, citizens are encouraged to think of their neighbours and help vulnerable people to cope with the heat. Furthermore, medical services keep a list with telephone numbers of elderly and other groups at risk and during hot days they check in with them to ask if they are doing well or if they need any help [French heatwave plan].

Another possibility could be service points across cities, where everybody can not only inform themselves but get cool water and if necessary medical help. During hot weather such centres could be temporarily set up in municipal buildings, but also train stations, universities and similar sites. Sometimes there can be synergy effects with other initiatives. Leiden University Green Office pushed for installing water taps across the university together with Join the Pipe. Their goal is to reduce plastic waste but it has the side effect of ensuring access to fresh drinking water for everyone all the time.

Installing water taps not only reduces plastic but also helps staying hydrated in summer.   Source: Leiden University

On the policy side, the national government can do their part in ensuring protection for example for workers who have to work outside such as in construction or on farms. Policy measures should pin down from which temperature upwards work has to be suspended, that employers provide adequate access to cool drinking water and sun protection and enough breaks to make the heat bearable. And to return to the technical and planning aspect, cities and the national government can contribute by supporting initiatives that strive to create more adapted cities. The Hague is taking the first steps into that direction by subsidizing house owners who are greening their roofs. Such efforts need to be stepped up and intensified to be able to adapt to rising temperatures. Another positive effect of for example bringing more green into the cities is that it does not only helps adapting to climate change but also helps mitigating it by offsetting a part of our CO² emissions.

In that sense, let us prepare society for warmer days and more sun and in the meanwhile appreciate the upsides of our windy, rainy weather.

Climate Adaption from the Past


From the Last Glacial Maximum at the end of the Palaeolithic (10.000 years ago) to the warmer periods in the Bronze Age (4.000 years ago), humankind has always adapted their way of living to a changing environment. Actually, archaeology shows a long history of climate adaption in every possible population. As Dr Joe Flatman of UCL Archaeology mentions in his mini-lecture: we can learn about how to manage climate change by looking into the past.
True, a lot of adapting consisted out of moving away, but regarding our present situation, this is not a viable solution. The lesson we can learn should be about the positive and negative results of adaption of multiple communities. This can form a framework for modern societies.

Take as an example the city of Leiden. Based in a temperate region, the danger of extreme heat is not the first risk you will think of regarding the consequences of climate change. Nevertheless, heat stress has become a great threat to the less healthy inhabitant of the city.  Atlas Natuurlijk Kapitaal provided a map with the ‘Urban Heat Island Effect’ of the Netherlands. Due to the old, densely build centre of Leiden, the heat island effect causes almost a 2⁰ Celsius increase in this area. We, humans, are capable of adapting rather well to hot conditions gradually, but it is a sudden increase in temperature which poses the greatest risk.

One of the simple ways to reduce the heating in the city is installing ‘green roofs’ on top of the buildings. Studies in different places all over the world have found some way of reducing the heat by using natural material. In the Neolithic times (13.000 years ago), when humans became dependent on agriculture and lived sedentary lives, permanent housing became more important. Many materials were too heavy or not heavy enough to function as a roof. Due to their internal cohesion, it was turf or sod that was used for the roofing of their homes. Not only did it protect them from wind and water, but it also reduced the intrusion of the heat in summertime and escape of the heat in the colder periods.

A worker mowed the grass roof of a government building near Torshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands, August 2009. (Bob Strong/Reuters)



Thinking of houses with a sod roof, you will probably imagine a lonely farmhouse build in the last century, but sod roofs can be applied to modern housing as well!

Green roofing can not only be applied on the houses in the city centre of Leiden as a way to reduce the effects of the Urban Heat Islands’, but can also be of value for reducing your energy use. Another plus is the increasing biodiversity in the city, another objective of the municipality.
The example above is not the most original idea regarding heat stress reduction, but still a very effective one. And it shows how much we can learn from our ancestors to tackle such an important threat as climate change. We have always adapted to our environment and we will continue to do so. How? That is up to us.