The summer of 2023 has left a mark on Europe’s climatic history, ranking as its fifth-warmest ever recorded at 0.83C above the 1991 to 2020 seasonal average. While this spike in temperature affected the entire continent, the Mediterranean region suffered the most. A notable example was Greece, which grappled with unprecedented challenges due to extreme heatwaves and rampant wildfires.
The country faced its hottest July in 50 years this summer, with more than 1.6 million acres burnt by the end of August. This marks a 270 per cent increase in fire-affected areas compared with the average area burned annually between 2002 and 2022, according to the European Forest Fire Information System and the fire meteorological team at the National Observatory of Athens.
The increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events has made it clear that a collective response is necessary, one that is focused on the sharing of knowledge and the co-ordination of efforts across Europe. Nevertheless, the task is complex, as Europe’s climate impacts and adaptive capabilities vary significantly from one country to another.
Right now, the European Union has already taken steps to aid and support its Member States during times of dire need.
The European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite constellation was, for instance, pivotal in conducting damage assessments across multiple areas of the Greek regions affected by wildfires. However, while such measures provided support in the short term, achieving lasting resilience and climate adaptation will take much more.
Luckily, several EU-funded initiatives offer hope for the future. Projects such as IMPETUS serve as models of collective action involving scientists, practitioners and policymakers across several countries. The project combines a consortium of 32 partner organisations from nine European countries, all dedicated to translating environmental commitments into concrete climate adaptation actions.
The cornerstone of IMPETUS lies in its seven open-air laboratories, situated across different biogeographical regions, for testing innovative technologies and gathering knowledge. The data collected through this project is subsequently shared on a common platform, ensuring accessibility to information and expertise for stakeholders across regions.
The sewer mining solution offers a blueprint for other drought and fire-prone regions
One of these sites is the Attica region in Greece, which spans more than 3,800 square kilometres and encompasses the sprawling capital city of Athens and its surroundings. Here, we are testing sewer mining technology for wastewater treatment and water reuse schemes for irrigation and other urban uses. This process holds particular promise in areas like Attica that are particularly prone to drought and water scarcity – conditions that frequently exacerbate the severity of wildfires.
The sewer mining technology developed with IMPETUS funding extracts wastewater from local sewers, treats it on-site, and provides high-quality water for reuse where needed. Already tested and optimised in two different pilot sites of the Attica region, the sewer mining solution offers a blueprint for other drought and fire-prone regions facing similar challenges.
IMPETUS has also fostered a network of sister projects, such as REGILIENCE, ARSINOE, and TransformAr, all with a singular focus on enhancing climate resilience in various regions and cities across Europe.
Achieving a sustainable and resilient Europe will rely increasingly on collaboration and shared commitments. With the support of the European Union, these large-scale co-operative efforts will help us tackle common challenges and pave the way for practical solutions, securing a better future for ourselves and subsequent generations.