Integrating climate change adaptation processes at regional and local scales in Emilia-Romagna

Climate impacts
Non-impact specific
Implementation time
In 2015 the Emilia-Romagna Region approved the definition of a regional strategy for climate change mitigation and adaptation. The elaboration of the Strategy began in 2016 and ended in 2018 with its formal approval. The Strategy will be continuously reviewed and updated according to the latest knowledge on climate change projections and impacts, and the identification of actions needed to cope with these climate challenges.

Geographic context and climate challenges

The Emilia-Romagna region is located in Northern Italy, and extends from the Apennines in the south to the Po River in the north and to the Adriatic Sea in the east. An average increase of yearly temperatures of about 1.5°C was recorded in the 1991-2016 period. Cumulative observed precipitation increased only during autumn, while it slightly decreased in the other seasons, especially in the summer periods, during which an increase in the number of consecutive days without rain events was observed (Emilia-Romagna Strategy, 2018). Future climate projections are reported in the Mitigation and Adaptation Strategy for the Emilia-Romagna Region. They have been developed by the Hydrological, Meteorological and Climatological Service of the Emilia-Romagna Environmental Protection Agency (Arpae-SIMC) through statistical downscaling technique applied to different Global Climate Models (Ensembles and CMIP5 runs) and different emission scenarios (including RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5). The projections have been downscaled for mean and extreme events of temperature and precipitation from the Emilia-Romagna region. Maximum temperature is expected to increase in all seasons: 1.5 °C in winter and 2-2.5 °C for the other seasons by 2050 for both RCP scenarios, 4.5 °C and up to 8 °C in summer by 2100 respectively for the RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 scenarios. Consequently, the frequency and duration of heatwaves and tropical nights (nights during which the minimum temperature does not fall under 20°C) will also increase. According to RCP 4.5, precipitation by 2050 is likely to decrease around -10% in spring and summer, while a positive trend is expected in autumn (20%). Similar rainfall projections are available for RCP8.5, with a more consistent increase in autumn precipitation by 2050 (between 25% and 30%). Also, extreme events are expected to increase: in autumn extreme rainfall are projected to increase by 20%, while in summer a 20% increase in the maximum number of consecutive days without precipitation is expected.

The Adriatic coast of Emilia-Romagna is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. Sea level projections are highly uncertain depending on a range of assumptions and processes, including those at global scale. Perini et al. (2017) consider for the Emilia-Romagna coast an increase in sea level by 2100 of 0.34m under the RCP4.5 emission scenario and of 0.45m under RCP 8.5. These values, computed by extracting from the global IPCC AR5 maps the sea-level projections for the grid cells closest to the Emilia-Romagna coast, are slightly lower than those assumed for the Mediterranean basin and the global scale. Such estimates do not include land subsidence, which can be locally significant. Subsidence is mainly observed along the central coast of the region due to gas extraction and groundwater exploitation (Sytnik et al. 2018). Values along the coast for the period 2011-2016 are about 5 mm/y with peaks of 15-17 mm/y along the Ravenna coast (Arpae). Antonioli et al (2017) propose estimates of relative sea level rise for the Adriatic coast that combine local vertical movements (land tectonic and glacio-isostatic rates) and global eustatic projections (IPCC AR5 and Rahmstorf, 2007) to assess the extent of Adriatic coastal flooded areas by 2100. For the North Adriatic, relative sea level rise projected by 2100 ranges from 58 to 101 cm (according to the most severe IPCC RCP AR5 8.5 scenario, minimum and maximum level) and up to more than 1 meter according to the worst scenario (Rahmstorf, 2007).

Important impacts of climate change for the Emilia-Romagna region are expected on the water cycle, in particular in terms of flooding due to the increased frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events, as well as of reduced water availability for agricultural and other uses. Water scarcity problem will be particularly severe in the Po valley area. Increased water scarcity could also affect the quality of surface and underground water bodies. An increased imbalance between recharges and withdrawals could results in a decrease of water exchange and refreshing. In coastal areas the problem will likely worsen by saltwater intrusion favoured by the combined effect of sea level rise and subsidence. Due to their low elevation and geomorphology, the coasts of the Emilia-Romagna region are particularly vulnerable to relative sea level rise. Beyond saltwater intrusion, this is expected to increase coastal erosion and flooding due to extreme storm surges events. Moreover, a decrease in the effectiveness of the existing coastal defences is highlighted by the Strategy. Higher temperature will also affect marine water quality, due to increased risk of anoxia events and algal blooms. Overall, these climate risks will cause direct and indirect impacts on various socio-economic sectors, as for example tourism and agriculture. 


The Mitigation and Adaptation Strategy for Emilia-Romagna Region aims at increasing the resilience and adaptive capacity of the regional territory and of the strategic economic sectors to the most relevant climate change hazards and related impacts. The regional strategy also invites local administrations to develop their own adaptation strategy and/or plan, coherently with the regional strategy objectives and targets. Actually, some provinces and municipalities started the adaption process before the regional strategy was approved. Strengthening the integration between the regional and local adaptation processes is both an objective and a challenge. Besides adaptation, the regional Strategy contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by fostering mitigation measures. These overarching goals are further articulated into the following specific objectives:

  • Mapping and enhancing at the regional level the actions and plans already in place contributing to adapt to climate change and improve mitigation in particular through the reduction of GHG emissions.
  • Identifying further actions and measures for different sectors that can contribute to adaptation and mitigation objectives, also according to the already existing sectoral plans.
  • Defining a monitoring system of the implemented measures.

Adaptation measures implemented in the case

Integrated governance for adaptation


In 2018 the Regional Council approved the Mitigation and Adaptation Strategy for Emilia-Romagna (Resolution n.187/2018), which constitutes a common framework for mitigation and adaptation for the regional economic sectors and local administrations. The Strategy identifies measures and actions to cope with current climate variability and future climate changes in all the important sectors of the region, including: inland waters and water resources, air quality, urban areas, land use, coastal areas, transport, forests, biodiversity and ecosystems, agriculture, production industry, energy system, tourism, health, fishing and aquaculture, and cultural heritage.

For each sector, the Strategy identifies adaptation and mitigation actions for the short-term (by 2020) and for the medium-term (beyond 2020), as well as strategic guidelines. The actions suggested are detailed and classified according to the type of measure (e.g., structural and technological, social, institutional, etc.). For instance, medium-term actions for the management of water resources consist of reducing water losses, implementing measures to save water, developing water retention solutions, promoting less water-intensive agricultural systems, etc. Coastal flooding and erosion represent some of the major risks for Emilia-Romagna. The Strategy proposes the implementation of an Integrated Coastal Areas Management Plan, to be designed on the basis of the wide previous experience, including the guidelines for the Integrated Coastal Zone Management approved in 2005 (Regional Decree n.645, 20.01.2005), the Floods Directive plans and the results of numerous projects and measures already implemented along the region’s coastline. Specific mid-term actions aiming at increasing the coastal resilience include: regulating and limiting urban development along the coast, improving early warning system for coastal storms and related impacts, and stabilizing the shoreline through beach nourishment and dune reconstruction, integrated with grey measures (seawalls, groynes and breakwaters) where needed. For the production sector, medium-term actions foreseen by the regional Strategy aim to make the local area and businesses secure to the occurring climate hazards. Suggested actions include planning new production sites in areas not vulnerable to climate impacts (such as river and coastal flooding), promoting energy consumption from renewable sources, reducing water consumption and waste production, etc. For most of the sectors, mitigation is primarily addressed by fostering energy efficiency and by encouraging behavioural change (e.g., green mobility, urban green areas). In the frame of mitigation, a cross-cutting project, financed by the Region, aims at planting 4.5 million trees in the next five years in order to make Emilia-Romagna the “green alley” of Italy. 

The Regional Strategy encourages local administrations to take action by developing their own local climate change plans. In 2011, before the Strategy was adopted, the Emilia-Romagna region launched the Climate Plans initiative, supporting local administrations to take action to cope with climate change, both in terms of adaptation and mitigation, and more in general to pursue sustainable development objectives. The Climate Plans initiative includes a dedicated web-based platform (CLEXi) helping administrations to monitor and report the implemented actions and the achieved results. Up to now, the eight provinces of the Emilia-Romagna region and the respective cities plus some other local administrations have developed their own climate adaptation plan. Some examples are illustrated below.

The Municipality of Reggio Emilia is developing its Adaptation Strategy within the Urbanproof project co-funded by the EU LIFE program. The strategy is expected to be approved in 2020 and sets up specific measures for the main climate change impacts projected for the city. One of these actions focuses on green and blue urban infrastructures, such as urban afforestation, installation of fountains for cooling and the increase of permeable soils share in urban areas. The municipality set greening objectives already in 2017, by approving the “Reggio Breathes” project. This set up ten actions for improving the air quality and the urban micro-climate of the city; two important actions of the project consisted in planting 8,000 trees and in encouraging the use of electric public transport. 

The city of Bologna developed its Local Adaptation Plan through the BLUEAP project co-funded by the EU LIFE program. The plan was approved in October 2015 and aims at improving reactive and anticipatory adaptation to the main climate change hazards affecting the city of Bologna: heatwaves, drought and flooding. The planning process identified possible adaptation measures, built resilient communities, and engaged citizens through PlayBlueap, an online application designed to disseminate scientific knowledge, through which citizens can share their environmental-friendly actions and take responsibility for the environment and climate change. The “green areas inner-city agreement” (developed within the LIFE co-funded GAIA project) is one of the other initiatives promoted by the municipality of Bologna which contributes to reaching the Local Adaptation Plan objectives. This initiative promoted a public-private partnership model to finance tree planting in the city, in order to reduce GHG emissions and allow private business companies to offset their emissions. The companies can calculate the emissions produced through a dedicated web-site and purchase a plan to neutralize their carbon footprint by planting and maintaining trees across the city.

At a local scale, the Municipality of Cervia, partner of the Covenant of Mayors, developed its adaptation plan. This identifies structural, institutional and social actions to adapt to climate change and fixes objectives of decarbonization and reduction of CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030. The plan considers the socio-economic sectors vulnerable to the main climate hazards: heatwaves, extreme precipitation events, storm surge, sea level rise, drought and soil salinization. The adaptation measures suggested aim to reduce the risks and the vulnerability of the community and infrastructures, adapt to the changes occurring in the area, implement mitigation actions and increase the energy efficiency and renewable energy in the territory.

Also, the municipality of Finale Emilia developed its Action Plan, after the subscription to the Covenant of Mayors. The Plan sets up actions aiming to drive the transition of the municipality towards sustainability and to improve its mitigation and adaptation capacity to climate change. According to the Plan, the main climate risks are increasing heatwave events, flooding, drought and extreme precipitations. For each of them the Plan identifies strategic adaptation actions. So far, the measures under implementation mainly focus on increasing the green areas in urban places, which have both an immediate mitigation and adaptation effect. The Plan also focuses on the importance of citizens’ awareness on sustainability, climate change and the risks the communities face on their health and life.

Leader of the initiative and key partners

The Territory and Environment General Direction (Direzione Generale Cura del Territorio e Ambiente) of the Emilia-Romagna Region coordinated the development of the Mitigation and Adaptation Strategy. The Regional Environmental Protection Agency (ARPAE) and ERVET – an urban development agency of the Region involved in the promotion of sustainability and in the environmental qualification of the region – actively contributed to the definition of the Strategy by providing the needed scientific knowledge on climate change. ARPA ER is primarily engaged in documenting the present climate impacts, defining future climate change scenarios and evaluating related impacts, and in assessing specific adaptation actions in order to update the Strategy in the coming years. The Regional Observatory of Scenarios on Climate Change (Osservatorio Regionale degli scenari di cambiamento climatico) has been created within ARPA for this specific scope. 

The Emilia-Romagna Region also established the Organizational Supervision on Climate Change (Presidio Organizzativo Cambiamento Climatico) managed by its Service on Impact Assessment and Sustainable Development Promotion (Servizio Valutazione Impatto e Promozione Sviluppo Sostenibile). This body monitors and evaluates the effectiveness of the regional adaptation and mitigation policies and guidelines as well as upgrades the Strategy according to the new evidence on climate change in the region’s area. 

Moreover, the Emilia-Romagna Region created a Regional Forum on Climate Change to improve vertical and horizontal integration among the different administrators and other stakeholders involved in the adaption process. The Forum is used to exchange knowledge on climate change, coordinate the policies on adaptation and mitigation at local level as well as share the results achieved in mitigating and adapting to climate impacts. It is addressed to the regional stakeholders, such as local administrations, businesses, universities and research centres and organizations of the civil society. The Forum has also the objective of improving citizens’ awareness on the importance of climate change mitigation and adaptation. The participatory process is based on different actions: meetings and workshops, a web-based platform to exchange knowledge and facilitate the discussion on key issues, and educational and communication initiatives addressing citizens and students.

Stakeholder participation

Stakeholders’ contribution was fundamental in the elaboration of the Regional Strategy, especially for the identification of the main vulnerabilities to climate change for each addressed sector and for the definition of related actions to be undertaken. The stakeholders have been involved since the beginning of the process. The first phase engaged representatives of the scientific community in three seminars (July 2016) to build up a common and shared knowledge on climate change topic. In the second phase, which led to the definition of the Strategy, regional stakeholders (local administrations, sector specific businesses and NGOs) were engaged to both share with them the scientific knowledge underpinning the adaptation process and to define a common ground of the measures to undertake.

The participation of the stakeholders is particularly encouraged also in the monitoring phase of the Strategy implementation, in particular through the Regional Forum, to better inform and educate the community on climate change issues and encourage the dialogue among the different parties.

Success and limiting factors

The adaptation process promoted in the Emilia-Romagna region could count on strong political support, which finally led to the approval of the Mitigation and Adaptation Strategy by the Regional Council. Since 2020, the Council’s agenda, recognising the value of this document, has included ambitious climate change mitigation goals and activities, such as carbon neutrality by 2050, the pathway to achieve this neutrality and the goal of 100% from renewable energy by 2035. Towards this direction, Emilia Romagna region is working on the “Job and Climate Pact” (Patto per il Lavoro e per il Clima), a sort of agreement signed by different stakeholders (from the economic, social, environmental sectors) to achieve the carbon neutrality, to fight inequalities and to recover after the economic and health emergencies. Following this agreement, an upgrade and reorganisation of the Organizational Supervision on Climate Change could be possible.

The regional and local initiatives gave the opportunity to strengthen the scientific knowledge about climate change. Robust regionalisation techniques of climate scenarios (based on statistical and dynamic approaches) have been validated in various previous projects and then used to support regional and local adaptation planning.

Indeed, a stronger integration among regional and local plans still needs some efforts to be fully realised. Though many valuable initiatives at the local scale have been carried out in recent years, a stronger effort should be undertaken at the regional level in order to provide an overarching framework with common guidelines valid for the whole territory of the Region. This integration could allow, for example, common schemes for GHG emission assessment (for mitigation) and for monitoring of the actions implemented (adaptation).

Costs and benefits

The funds for the elaboration of the Regional Strategy and for the Climate Plans initiative were provided through regional laws. In particular, the regional decree D.G.R. 370/2010 allocated a total of 414.750€ to the eight Emilia-Romagna provinces. In some cases, the process of elaboration of local adaptation strategy and/or plans has benefitted from collaboration with research institutions in the context of EU funded projects. This is the case of the Local Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Bologna, which was partly funded by the EU LIFE program within the BLUEAP project for a total of 986.049 Euro. Also, the Reggio Emilia Strategy has been partly financed by the EU LIFE program within the Urbanproof project.


Patrizia Bianconi
Emilia-Romagna Region/ ART-ER
Phone: +39 051 5276852

Marroni Valerio
Emilia-Romagna Region
Phone: +39 051 5276952

Rodica Tomozeiu
Arpae-Simc, Osservatorio Clima
Phone: +39 051 6497550

Source for more detailed information

Regione Emilia-Romagna webpage

Atlante Climatico Regionale

BLUEAP Bologna 

LIFE Urbanproof project for Emilia Romagna

Adaptation and mitigation strategy of Cervia

Action Plan of Finale Emilia


Mitigation and Adaptation Strategy of Emilia Romagna Region

Long term trend of the average temperature in Emilia Romagna (1961-2019). Source:


Strategia di Mitigazione e Adattamento per i cambiamenti climatici della Regione Emilia-Romagna, 2018 (in Italian)

Summary document of the Mitigation and Adaptation Strategy for Emilia-Romagna (in English)

Proiezioni climatiche per aree omogenee: Schede di Proiezione Climatica 2021-2050 (in Italian)