As summer temperatures escalate, Athens emerges as a leader in combatting the urban heat island effect. The city has appointed Europe’s first Chief Heat Officer, proactively protecting its citizens. Key strategies include the development of green and blue infrastructure, the creation of ‘pocket parks’ for cooling public spaces, and the launch of a mobile app that suggests the coolest walking routes. Cool centers have been established in each district, offering open spaces for respite from intense heat. In an ambitious move, Athens is also renovating an ancient Roman aqueduct to alleviate water scarcity. All these measures and a commitment to increase the city’s green space from 15 to 30 percent underscore Athens’s comprehensive approach to mitigating the effects of rising temperatures.”
- Athens is taking steps to combat urban heat.
- The city is increasing its green and blue infrastructure, creating pocket parks, and renovating a Roman aqueduct.
- A mobile app guides citizens and visitors through the coolest walking routes.
Europe’s first chief heat officer takes charge
Athens’ appointment of a Chief Heat Officer (CHO) is the first in Europe, ushering in a significant step toward acknowledging and combatting the city’s heat problem. The CHO’s role is to ensure that the issue of heat remains a top priority and to guide Athens in developing effective climate action plans.
Eleni Myrivili, the former Athens CHO, emphasized the importance of tackling heat-related challenges. While discussions often revolve around floods and wildfires, the often-overlooked threat of heat should not be underestimated.
Green and blue infrastructure: the heart of the strategy
Recognizing that a lack of vegetation and water exacerbates the heat islands problem, Athens has undertaken key initiatives to create green and blue infrastructure. One such initiative is the establishment of ten ‘pocket parks’ in previously unused areas. These patches of greenery, located in the heart of the city, provide a respite from the intense heat of built-up areas.
Furthering the green initiative, Athens has set its sights on increasing the city’s green space from 15 to a significant 30 percent in the long term. This commitment to greenery plays a vital role in mitigating the effects of rising temperatures and building a sustainable city.
Technology to the rescue: EXTREMA Global app
In a move to leverage technology, the city has developed the EXTREMA Global app. This innovative app utilises satellite data to suggest the coolest walking routes based on tree density along the way. The app serves as a practical tool for citizens to navigate the city in the sweltering heat, offering the most comfortable and coolest routes to their destinations.
Cool centres: a breath of fresh air
Athens has gone a step further in its efforts to offer relief from the heat by setting up cool centers in each of its seven districts. These centers provide free access to open spaces where people can find relief from the scorching temperatures. By offering these cool zones, the city aims to ensure the well-being and safety of its residents during heat waves.
Reviving the past: renovation of a Roman aqueduct
In a bold and ambitious move, Athens is renovating a Roman-era aqueduct in Chalandri. This project aims to bring 50,000 cubic meters of groundwater annually to the suburbs, addressing the city’s water scarcity issues.
The renovation of the aqueduct showcases Athens’ commitment to finding innovative solutions to its water concerns, utilizing resources that have existed for centuries.
The urgency of addressing the heat issue in Athens and other European cities is underlined by recent research published on Nature, which estimated that over 61,000 people died from heatwaves across Europe last summer. The city’s comprehensive approach to mitigating the effects of rising temperatures, from appointing a CHO to renovating an ancient aqueduct, is an example for other cities grappling with the challenges of a warming world.