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Climate change in the city: Baltic Sea cities

The impact of climate change continues to be felt more acutely with each passing year, month or even day. Interestingly, following this summer’s drastic climate-induced events in Rhodes and Sicily, Central and Eastern Europe has received its fair share of attention amid speculation that the Baltic Sea coast may soon find itself among key tourist hotspots on the continent.

But if sunbathing on sandy beaches is not your preferred way of spending the holidays, climate change-ready Warsaw in Poland may just be a perfect “city-break” alternative.

Initiated by Warsaw’s Air Protection and Climate Policy Office, the Warsaw guide to adapting to climate change is a publicly available document that sets out the consequences of the climate crisis and adaption guidelines for the city’s residents, business owners and housing associations.

“July heatwaves in Italy or massive fires in Greece – the effects of climate change are being heard about more frequently. It’s becoming increasingly important not only to combat them but also to adapt to them,” said Magdalena Młochowska, Director Coordinator for Green Warsaw.

The guide offers advice on, for example, creating a rain garden (including a list of the best plants), installing a rainwater tank, why it is worth turning a lawn into a flower meadow and which plants to choose or how to create green roofs and walls.

The guide also encourages residents to submit ideas for new green projects in the city. Warsaw also offers subsidies for small retention facilities (for water outflow, storage and retention) and other green projects.

“This knowledge can be useful to every resident, especially in a city where some effects of climate change are particularly visible and troublesome. We hope that our guide will at least partially serve as such a source of knowledge. And not just for Warsaw residents,” added Ms Młochowska.

The Polish capital is already seeing an increase in the number of rain gardens which are often implemented while building or modernising new infrastructure like roads and parks. Additionally, the city is also increasing its flower meadows, while some concrete surfaces are being replaced with green areas (ie. vegetation).

Travelling along a green Baltic coast

Looking at other “climate change-ready” cities of countries with access to the Baltic Sea coast, it is also worth looking at Tallinn in Estonia – being the EU’s Green Capital for 2023, an annual title given to a European city that demonstrates leadership in the green transition.

As noted by the EU, the Estonian capital was recognised as the bloc’s urban climate representative due to its “systemic approach to green governance and interlinked strategic goals, which reflect the ambitions of the European Green Deal.”

This includes the adoption of the “Tallinn 2035” strategy that aims to address carbon neutrality, climate adaptation, innovation, health, mobility, biodiversity, circular economy, sustainable energy and food production.

Moving from strategy to achievements already seen “on the ground” – in 2020, Tallinn completed its flagship green corridor – a 13-kilometre (km) pollinator highway connecting the city’s six districts to encourage insect pollination in its green spaces.

It is useful to mention that since 2013, Tallinn has been Europe’s first capital to offer free public transport.

Here, if sustainable transport is usually on top of your holiday itinerary – in just three years, you will be able to take a low-emission train directly from Warsaw to Tallinn following the completion of the Rail Baltica project, a direct railway network connecting Poland with fellow Baltic countries (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland).

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