Bottom up Adaptation Strategies for a Sustainable Europe

Mainstreaming climate change adaptation into urban planning in (Jena, Germany)


The Climate Challenge

Jena is a city of around 100,000 inhabitants that, due to its specific geographic location, is at heightened risk for climate change-related risks, especially heat stress and floods. The city centre is surrounded by steep shell limestone slopes, which operate as a thermal storage system, making Jena one of the warmest places in Central Germany. By the end of the century, the average maximum temperature in summer is projected to increase by 3 K to 6 K.

Aside from heat stress, heavy or long-lasting precipitation events regularly cause major floods and sewer overflows. Numerous tributaries flow from the surrounding plateau and discharge in the floodplain of the Saale river, which crosses the city center and industrial areas. Projections and modelling results from other German river basins suggest an increase of peak discharges especially for flood events occurring with a medium to high probability.


The Adaptation Response

Climate risk projections, and heat stress in particular, have triggered the development of the Jena climate change adaptation strategy (Jenaer KlimaAnpassungsStrategie, or JenKAS), which was adopted by the City Council in May 2013. Its backbone is a handbook on climate sensible urban planning, which includes information on current and future local climatic conditions, legal aspects, economic assessments of adaptation options and best practice examples. The handbook is complemented by a decision support system for stakeholders and decision-makers.

The implementation of JenKAS focuses on mainstreaming climate adaptation into urban planning and construction projects, such as in the redevelopment of the central urban square Inselplatz from a 3 ha inner-city greyfield into a new university campus, where measures included varying the number and species of trees to be planted, colour schemes of pavements, use of water elements and roof greening.


The people and institutions involved

The JenKAS began with a pilot study commissioned and financed in 2009 by the Department of Urban Development & City Planning (DUDCP). The subsequent development of JenKAS was then steered by the DUDCP and financially supported by the Federal Government of Germany. It involved experts from all relevant departments of the city administration and agencies of the federal state of Thuringia, interested stakeholder groups (e.g. associations, and cooperatives), scientists and local politicians.

The planning process was further characterized by various types of formal citizen feedback to draft land development plans and more informal means of stakeholder participation such as citizen workshops. If the planner failed to balance different demands in the drafting process, then opposition to the final draft would have impeded its approval by the City Council, which consists of representatives of the various civic interests.


The Outcome of Action

As a consequence of these efforts, a constantly growing number of land development plans refers to JenKAS when making recommendations or substantiating restrictions. Beyond the actions directed at internal municipal processes, there are several activities addressing local citizens and associations, e.g. a nature trail with display boards financed by local businesses, which provide information about important aspects of the changing urban climate as well as the local adaptation strategy.

The planning period of the Inselplatz project is projected to last 2012-2017, and the construction period will be 2018-2020. 



Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Oliver Gebhardt


Relevant Links


Full Report

The full report of this case study can be read here.



Photo © Fotolia / Ramona Heim