Athens leads fight to counteract extreme heat 

By Climate Champions | December 13, 2022

Location & Region: Athens, Greece /Europe

Partner: Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance

Implementers:  City of Athens

Area and sector: Urban/ infrastructure, Policy, Awareness raising

Europe is warming fast. According to the European Environmental Agency, the continent is facing its warmest decade on record, with an average temperature increase of 1.11ºC to 1.14ºC warmer than pre-industrial levels. This is translating into more frequent, lasting, and intense heat waves.

As heat waves become more extreme, so do their impacts on the people and the economy. It is estimated that heat waves are the number one cause of death related to climate disasters. The World Health Organization announced that in 2022, approximately 15,000 died across Europe due to extremely hot weather, evidencing the urgency to prioritize and address the impacts of extreme heat.

Race to Resilience partner, Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance (EHRA), is aiming to support 500 million people worldwide with heat-related resilience solutions by 2030. One of the cities that have joined this effort is Athens, Greece, a city on high alert, suffering from multi hazard risks in relation to heat waves and wildfires. Impacts include poor air quality which disrupts water supplies, electricity transmission and generation, among others. In addition, Athens’ extreme heat is projected to become three times more frequent under current emission trajectories, increasing exposure and therefore, the vulnerability of its population and the economy.

“Output losses due to heat-related worker productivity reductions in Central Athens alone are now valued at $98.4. This will rise to $230 million by 2050”. EHRA, 2022.

To change this projection, the city of Athens has taken it upon itself to incorporate the following initiatives to counteract rising temperatures and their devastating impacts:

  • On the policy front, Athens has appointed a Chief Heat Office to oversee workers’ protection in the city and put in place policies that ensure their safety during heat waves and peak hours.
  • Campaigning to raise public awareness about heat waves’ consequences to health, providing timely information for rapid response and making accessible public cooling centres available for people during heatwaves.
  • Investing in the built environment and nature-based solutions. Among the plans is a drive to increase green spaces by developing pocket parks that maintain cooling areas for wildlife and people, and create more water fountains to provide accessible water in public areas.

Learn more about Athens’ actions to tackle extreme heat here.