“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—often referred to as the World Climate Council, points out that the range of potential adaptation measures is very extensive; it ranges from purely technological measures (e.g., coastal protection) to changes in behaviour (e.g., eating habits, choice of holiday destinations) and business decisions (e.g., changed land management) to political decisions (e.g., planning regulations).

Given that climate change affects many sectors of an economy, integrating adaptation plans is a key challenge.”

(Source: Wikipedia)

Freiburg’s climate adaptation manager, Verena Hilgers, kindly shares the city’s approach on the subject as a case study.

Freiburg presented an initial strategy for climate adaptation as early as 2013, in 2019 a climate change adaptation concept for the heat action field was introduced, and since 2020 the position for a “climate adaptation manager” in the city administration has been established. A bit of a monster of a word in the German version, but an extremely smart and future-oriented strategy of the city.

In comparison, the German Ministry for the Environment (BMUV – Federal Ministry for the Environment and Nature Conservation) only launched a funding program in 2021 to encourage and support climate adaptation management for municipalities—the foundation for this had already been laid in Freiburg and the first projects had already been tackled by this time.

So, what is the task of the climate change adaptation manager?

She supports the municipal departments (city administration) and the municipal companies / private companies such as FWTM—across all areas, and coordinates project developments in reference to:

1) Climate impacts: changes in precipitation such as heavy rain and flooding

2) Climate impacts: drought & heat and their effects

3) Climate impacts: storm/wind events

A matrix then further explains the connections between the 3 areas of climate impact and the various fields of action of the city. Fields of action / sectors are based on the “Climate Adaptation Strategy of the Federal Government” and, depending on the city or region, these can be for example the tourism industry, biological diversity, urban planning, forestry, the energy industry, but also water management and soil conditions—all of them are affected in very different ways by the consequences of climate change.

Where does the climate adaptation manager see the problems in climate adaptation for tourism?

Verena says:

“Extreme weather situations are increasing, especially hot days. Tourists need more info, warnings, cooling locations, drinking water dispensers. In general, more awareness is needed on all sides, appropriate communication, and preparation for these hot days.

Due to ever milder winters and hotter summers, shifts in tourism are taking place. For the local economy, alternatives are shown, and problem areas are clarified.

All in all, our work is a race against time—knowledge and the need to change direction in the various fields overtake planning projects, which usually take a long time. Adaptation is difficult here since the legislation on which the planning project is based must be respected (planning security!). Construction projects and planning of land use are particularly affected by this situation.”

An example of an adapted, city funded project for greening is “Gebäudegrün Hoch 3” for construction projects by citizens and companies. It was decided by the municipal council in the summer of 2021 and is well received.

Numerous examples of city greening and thus increasing heat resilience in the cityscape, can be seen e.g., in the newly opened Green City Tower / Black F, with wall-bound facade greening and in the facade greening of the city library.

Greening is an effective measure for cooling both the green building itself and the surrounding area.

Another project in progress is to turn Freiburg into a “sponge city”, a concept for retaining too much of water for reuse. The establishment of cooling relaxation space is also progressing rapidly—with federal subsidies, for example, new trees are to be planted here that will cope better with climate change.

In each of the selected fields of action, status, and impact analyses are carried out and corresponding priorities are set, which are then translated into practical concepts.

The city’s experts exchange information on the topics and problems in the regional climate adaptation network together with the university. Climate adaptation is a very local issue, the conditions and situations are individually different for each place.

When asked about her personal priority, Verena Hilgers replies

“It’s not easy to say, since everything depends on everything else, but it may be the heat and how to combat it, with the most important elements such as creating cooling recreation spaces through shading, seepage options for heavy rain, and minimizing sealing in urban development.

The need for climate adaptation and hence the topic is generally recognized in Freiburg, but continuous education must still be carried out in the municipal offices to take everyone “on board”.

There is a high level of awareness of environmental and climate issues in Freiburg – but there is always room for improvement.”

Funding for the various projects comes from the state of Baden-Württemberg (“Klimopass” initiative) and from federal funding.

In addition to the engagements above, there are numerous other initiatives by the city, and it’s society in Freiburg to protect water and the environment. In a separate article we will also report on companies and start-ups related to the topic, the commitment of the University of Freiburg and other exciting stories about the “Lab of Water Legacy” – the city of Freiburg in Germany’s South West.


If you plan a conference and want to apply water (or other) legacy concept, contact:

Christina Fritsch, Project Head Freiburg Convention Bureau / MICE / Netzwerk

Tel.: +49 761 3881-15 25 • Mobil: +49 151 22 507 198  • Christina.Fritsch@fwtm.de

See you in Freiburg! https://youtu.be/pO7t6P8AQM8


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Johanna Fischer, ecomice /FrauBlau SDG 6 measures for climate adaptation in the city of Freiburg