When the foothills of an extreme heat wave from France and Spain reach us on Tuesday, Germany is prepared with a thick stack of paper. In 2008, the federal government had already adopted an adaptation strategy to climate change, followed in 2011 by an adaptation action plan.
Model projects and research projects were able to show very well how adaptation should work. However, there were only isolated answers that depended on project funding. If you look at the progress reports, it is often only about “plans” and “dialogues”. The result consisted in part in brochures, method manuals or guidelines, such as that for creating heat action plans.
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The fact that too little has happened so far can be easily seen from the immediate climate adaptation program that the federal government passed in March. It states that up to now there has been no responsibility for the systematic and widespread promotion of investments in climate adaptation. One goal was to give more consideration to sensitive population groups and facilities when adapting to climate change. But how exactly? In any case, heat action plans were not mandatory.
France is further along. In a devastating heat wave in 2003, morgue spaces became scarce because so many elderly people died as a result. A refrigerated aircraft hangar in a Paris suburb served as France’s largest morgue at the time. Politicians reacted: Today there is an alarm plan for every department and a “Dog Day Hotline” that you can contact.
In Germany, Berlin is leading the way as a major city with a strong heat island effect. The capital was the first federal state to adopt a heat action plan in June. But a whole new awareness of the dangers of climate change is needed. This was also shown by the flood disaster last year. The Ministry of the Environment in North Rhine-Westphalia sent warnings to all districts at the time. However, they were formulated in such a way that those responsible could not read the magnitude of the danger from them. Afterwards, one of those affected said that she could not have imagined the extent, after all, Germany was not a third world country.
There is something very true in this sentence: We are all stuck in this climate change, there is no escape, even for the inhabitants of the rich part of this planet – even if we can adapt better. In this respect, the only consequence can only be to show solidarity with the weakest among us – the elderly, children and the sick – but also to help those who are particularly affected worldwide.
The massive aid programs in the corona pandemic have shown what resources can be mobilized in an emergency. This is pointed out by the world’s poorest countries, who are still waiting for the promise made to them at the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen to be fulfilled. Namely 100 billion dollars annually for the fight against climate change.
Although 80 billion was recently raised, the lion’s share went to projects to reduce emissions, not to adaptation. There would be enough money if nations around the world stopped subsidizing fossil fuels and invested it in the expansion of renewable energy or in adaptation.
Both are urgently needed, because this summer will not be the last hot one. One day, people might even remember him as cool looking back. The good news is that if emissions stop rising, global warming will also stagnate after a few years. Hopefully this summer’s heatwaves will be a reason to finally shift in the right direction.